Corona Virus, Health, US NEWS

Coronavirus US live: US sees largest single-day Covid-19 death toll reported by any country

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Trump again criticizes WHO as 400,000 cases confirmed in America – as it happened” was written by Maanvi Singh in San Francisco (now) and Joan E Greve in Washington (earlier), for theguardian.com on Thursday 9th April 2020 01.13 UTC

2.40pm BST

Live reporting on coronavirus in the US continues in Thursday’s blog:

1.59am BST

Summary

  • During the daily coronavirus task force briefing, Donald Trump once again scapegoated the World Health Organization. The WHO’s director-general earlier made a plea to avoid politicization as the world responds to crisis.
  • Trump also tore down the idea of voting by mail, alleging widespread fraud — without any evidence to back his claims. Last week, he said if Democrats succeed in their efforts to make it easier to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again”.
  • Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign, making Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee. Sanders pledged to continue working to ensure progressive proposals are included in the party’s campaign platform.
  • More than 400,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the US. The national death toll has surpassed 14,000 and at least 1,939 people died of the virus yesterday, marking the deadliest day in the US since the crisis started.
  • New York is starting to flatten its curve of coronavirus cases even as the state death toll continues to climb. New York’s “stay at home” order is having an impact on the number of coronavirus cases, governor Andrew Cuomo said, but yesterday’s death toll of 779 was the state’s worst single-day figure yet.
  • Linda Tripp, who made the tapes of Monica Lewinsky discussing her relationship with Bill Clinton, has died. Tripp’s recordings of Lewinsky describing the extramarital affair ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment.

Updated at 2.13am BST

1.33am BST

Bernie Sanders, who has dropped out of the presidential race today, wrote an op-ed about the US coronavirus response for The Guardian.

In this unprecedented moment in American history, we need an unprecedented legislative response. President Trump is incapable of providing leadership, and instead continues to mislead the public and act out of political self-interest. So it is Congress that must lead, and it must do so now.

With anxiety growing, everyone in our country needs to know that, in the midst of this horrific pandemic and economic meltdown, their government is doing everything possible to keep them healthy and financially secure.

In other words, we need to build upon and expand the recent stimulus package with new and bolder emergency legislation which must be passed as soon as possible.

Read the full piece:

1.20am BST

Report: US intelligence warned of the coronavirus threat as early as November

US officials warned in November that the coronavirus was spreading through China’s Wuhan region, according to ABC News.

US military analysts from the National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI) “ concluded it could be a cataclysmic event,” one of the sources of the report told ABC News. The Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon and the White House were all briefed, according to the source.

The Guardian hasn’t independently verified the report.

Donald Trump has repeatedly said he acted early, and sought to blame the World Health Organization for not warning the US sooner of the coronavirus threat.

Updated at 1.21am BST

12.52am BST

Fact check: Voting fraud

Donald Trump is again spreading misinformation about voting by mail. After alleging during the coronavirus task force briefing, without any evidence, that there is rampant voter fraud, he’s now repeating the claim in a tweet.

Absentee ballots and vote-by-mail ballots are essentially the same, despite Trump’s claim that they are “very different”.

And experts say that voter fraud is incredibly rare. In North Carolina, an election was overturned in 2018 after a Republican political operative was alleged to have directed workers to collect and mail in other people’s absentee ballots during the 2018 Republican congressional primary and during the 2016 general election.

But states can avoid that sort of fraud by implementing ballot tracking, providing prepaid postage and setting ballot boxes and drop-off sites. Five states already conduct their elections entirely by mail, and have found ways to ensure the integrity of ballots.

There is no evidence of widespread voting fraud. The Brennan Center for Justice found in 2017 that the risk of voting fraud is 0.00004% to 0.0009%. Moreover, Trump’s own voting integrity commission found no evidence to support claims of widespread fraud found.

Updated at 1.21am BST

12.32am BST

The task force has wrapped up its briefing for today.

12.31am BST

Dr Birx mentioned that though there are now 18,000 Abbott machines to run coronavirus tests at labs around the country, many are not being used. She said she will be having a conference call with labs tonight to find out the status of the machines and how they’re being used.

Updated at 12.43am BST

12.29am BST

Responding to a question about whether the death toll for coronavirus is being inflated, Dr Fauci noted, “You will always have conspiracy theories…They are nothing but distractions.”

Dr Birx said that in some cases, there may be several reasons for death. “The number of Italians who succumbed had three or more comorbidities,” she said. The virus is considered the acute reason for death.

Updated at 12.42am BST

12.24am BST

“We will be attending church in the living room of the vice-president’s residence,” said Mike Pence. He’ll watch an Easter service from his home church in Indiana.

He encouraged all Americans to stay home. “Avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, avoid unnecessary travel,” he said.

Several churches around the country have flouted regulations and held services.

Updated at 12.41am BST

12.15am BST

Marianne Williamson endorsed Biden and condemned DNC chair Tom Perez in one very efficient tweet.

After dropping out of the 2020 race, Williamson had endorsed Bernie Sanders.

Updated at 12.15am BST

12.10am BST

Distancing is “the best tool”, Dr Anthony Fauci said. “We know that this is something that is a strain on the American public,” he added, but it works to stop the spread of disease.

He also addressed the health disparities for African Americans. “We are not going to solve the issues of health disparities this month, or next month,” he said – so it’s doubly important for “people in that community to please try as best as you can to protect yourself… and people who are susceptible”, including the elderly.

“What we can do now, today, is to prevent people who are put at higher risk because of their demographic group from getting into a situation that is much, much more deleterious,” Fauci said. Going forward, the US will have to make a concerted effort to eliminate racial health disparities.

Updated at 12.19am BST

11.59pm BST

Fact check: voter fraud

Donald Trump has left the briefing room, but we want to circle back to his earlier comments alleging rampant voter fraud. The president referenced a settlement in California, “where they admitted a million people should not have voted”. In doing so, he grossly misstated what that settlement entailed.

In January, the conservative group Judicial Watch announced that it had settled a 2017 lawsuit against the state of California. The settlement required LA county to remove inactive voters from its voter lists, and required California to direct other counties to do the same. All parties to the settlement agreed there was no admission of liability or wrongdoing by LA or California.

Judicial Watch estimated that as many as 1.5 million people would have been removed from voter lists in LA county. But, there’s no evidence than any of those people voted illegally. Judicial Watch said most of that 1.5 million would have ben “voters who have moved to another county or state or have passed away”.

At the time of the settlement, Paul Mitchell of the nonpartisan research firm Political Data Inc told the AP that the case was insignificant because it pertains to inactive voters who “are not getting voting materials, they are not casting ballots, they are not showing up in precincts”.

In other words, the settlement got LA county to update old records.

Updated at 12.12am BST

11.46pm BST

Fact check: ventilators

“It looks like we’re in great shape from the bed standpoint. It looks like we’re in great shape from the ventilators standpoint,” Trump said.

However, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine published on Wednesday 25 March categorically concluded that the US does not have enough ventilators to treat patients with Covid-19 in the coming months.

The authors, American public health experts, wrote: ‘There is a broad range of estimates of the number of ventilators we will need to care for US patients with Covid-19, from several hundred thousand to as many as a million. The estimates vary depending on the number, speed, and severity of infections, of course, but even the availability of testing affects the number of ventilators needed…. current estimates of the number of ventilators in the United States range from 60,000 to 160,000, depending on whether those that have only partial functionality are included. The national strategic reserve of ventilators is small and far from sufficient for the projected gap. No matter which estimate we use, there are not enough ventilators for patients with Covid-19 in the upcoming months.”

Updated at 11.56pm BST

11.45pm BST

Donald Trump appealed to Sanders voters. “Bernie and I agree on trade,” he said – though he’s better, Trump said.

The Vermont senator’s trade platform does prioritize protecting American jobs, a goal that Trump has also said he has.

“I got a lot of them in the last election,” Trump said of Sanders supporters. “They’re great people.”

Updated at 11.48pm BST

11.36pm BST

Asked what evidence there is of widespread voting fraud, Trump said, “I’ll provide you with some.”

“We’re going to find out about the proof,” he said. “You’re going to see what’s going on.

11.33pm BST

Fact check: Trump acted quickly

“People were shocked I acted so quickly” on coronavirus, Trump said. “And everybody thought I was wrong because I did act so quickly as you know with respect to closing the borders.”

In fact, it was almost six weeks after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the country that the Trump administration moved to ramp up coronavirus testing, allowing laboratories and hospitals to finally conduct their own Covid-19 tests to speed up the process.”

Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were – they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” an unnamed government official told the Washington Post. “The system was blinking red.”

Updated at 11.50pm BST

11.31pm BST

Trump once again said he hadn’t seen a memo from economic adviser Peter Navarro, which warned in January of coronavirus’s disastrous impact. “Peter sends a lot of memos,” Trump said.

Here’s more about the memo:

11.26pm BST

This is the US coronavirus taskforce briefing, but Trump was just asked whether he’d pardon Joe Exotic, the protagonist from the hit Netflix TV documentary Tiger King.

“ What did he do?” Trump asked. “Are you recommending a pardon?”

The president said he’d look into it.

Here’s more on the TV show:

Updated at 11.32pm BST

11.24pm BST

Fact check: testing

Trump once again boasted about testing in the US, claiming that “we’re testing more than anybody”. Other countries that known being good on testing are now “calling us”, he added.

While the US has ramped up testing, it still lags behind other countries, including South Korea and Germany. South Korea has administered 486,003 tests, according to the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With a population of 51.5 million, the country has tested about 1 in every 113 people. Germany has done even better, testing every 1 in 90 people.

Meanwhile, the United States, with a population of 329 million, had administered at least 1,951,044 tests, according to the Atlantic’s Covid Tracking Project – so the US has tested about 1 in every 168 people.

Updated at 11.55pm BST

11.20pm BST

Fact check: WHO

Trump again went after the World Health Organization, saying the organization was initially “minimizing the threat” of coronavirus and got everything “wrong”.

The WHO has been criticized for a 14 January tweet, which Trump just referenced, that noted that a preliminary investigation by Chinese officials found no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

But the organization declared coronavirus a “public health emergency” by 30 January. The Trump administration and the president himself repeatedly played down the crisis through February and March.

On 11 March, the WHO declared coronavirus a pandemic.

Updated at 11.52pm BST

11.12pm BST

The president repeated a story about a Democratic state lawmaker who credits hydroxychloroquine and Trump for her recovery from Covid-19. “She’s in terrific shape, she looks fantastic, and she was very generous with her statements,” Trump said.

Here’s more on that state representative, from the Detroit Free Press:

State Rep. Karen Whitsett, who learned Monday she has tested positive for COVID-19, said she started taking hydroxychloroquine on March 31, prescribed by her doctor, after both she and her husband sought treatment for a range of symptoms on March 18.

“It was less than two hours” before she started to feel relief, said Whitsett, who had experienced shortness of breath, swollen lymph nodes, and what felt like a sinus infection. She is still experiencing headaches, she said.

Whitsett said she was familiar with “the wonders” of hydroxychloroquine from an earlier bout with Lyme disease, but does not believe she would have thought to ask for it, or her doctor would have prescribed it, had Trump not been touting it as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

11.09pm BST

Fact check: hydroxychlor0quine

Trump said the national stockpile is now equipped with 30m hydroxychloroquine pills.

But public health experts including Trump’s top infectious diseases adviser, Dr Fauci, have previously warned that there was only “anecdotal evidence” that the drugs could be helpful.

Fauci has repeatedly warned that there is no conclusive evidence to support using the drug. Asked whether it should be considered a treatment for Covid-19, he said on 24 March: “The answer is no.”

Trump made his first endorsement of hydroxychloroquine on 19 March.

As the Guardian’s Julia Carrie Wong has reported, belief in the drug’s potential to cure patients infected with the virus followed an extraordinary trajectory from a small study conducted in France (Trump’s “very good test”) to Silicon Valley social media influencers, Fox News, and then the White House.

Twitter has deleted tweets by the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, and the Fox News personality Laura Ingraham that touted the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine.

Updated at 11.24pm BST

11.02pm BST

The World Health Organization “hasn’t accomplished what it was intended to deliver” Pompeo said, doubling down the president’s criticisms.

The president has repeatedly sought to shift blame for the crisis on the WHO, alleging that it responded too late.

11.00pm BST

Asked whether he thinks China has withheld information and whether the US will act on the president’s suspicion China has not been accurately reporting coronavirus data, Pompeo said, “This is not the time for retribution, but it is still the time for clarity and transparency.”

Pompeo avoided calling the coronavirus the “China virus” or “Wuhan virus” as he as in the past.

Updated at 11.24pm BST

10.57pm BST

The state department is working to repatriate Americans abroad, according to the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

“We still have several thousand” US citizens abroad, in some cases in remote areas. Efforts to bring them home are ongoing, and “we will keep it up” Pompeo said.

Updated at 10.59pm BST

10.53pm BST

“We send our regards to Boris, his friends, his family,” Trump said. “Hopefully he’s going to be OK.”

Yesterday, Trump detailed how he plans to help Boris Johnson, by alerting his doctors in London to “some very good potential cures” that US companies are exploring.

Updated at 10.59pm BST

10.49pm BST

Coronavirus briefing begins

Donald Trump has begun by saying that this is a “holy week” for Jewish and Christian people.

10.47pm BST

Of the coronavirus victims whose demographic information has been shared by officials, about 42% are black, according to an analysis by the AP.

The AP looked int 4,450 deaths and 52,000 Covid-19 cases from across the country.

My colleague Kenya Evelyn reported earlier:

African Americans face a higher risk of exposure to the virus, mostly on account of concentrating in urban areas and working in essential industries. Only 20% of black workers reported being eligible to work fromhome, compared with about 30% of their white counterparts, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Experts also point to initial research showing a high prevalence of Covid-19 among those suffering from obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes – risk factors more common among black Americans. The virus is known to take a harsher toll on those with underlying health issues, and many hospitals are only testing those admitted for critical care.

Updated at 10.47pm BST

10.14pm BST

Hi there, it’s Maanvi – blogging from the west coast.

We’re awaiting the White House coronavirus task force briefing. During the briefing yesterday, and subsequently on Fox News, Donald Trump repeatedly attacked the World Health Organization, alleging that it was late to act on coronavirus and that it was biased toward China. Trump threatened to stop funding the WHO, as his supporters called for the organization’s head to step down.

Without naming or addressing Trump directly, the WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, made a plea for solidarity, warning that politicizing the pandemic would result in “many more body bags”.

“When there are cracks at the national level and global level, that’s when the virus succeeds,” he said. “Please quarantine politicizing Covid. That’s the way if we want to win.”

Updated at 10.20pm BST

10.01pm BST

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign, making Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee. Sanders pledged to continue working to ensure progressive proposals are included in the party’s campaign platform.
  • More than 400,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the US. The national death toll has surpassed 14,000 and at least 1,939 people died of the virus yesterday, marking the deadliest day in the US since the crisis started.
  • New York is starting to flatten its curve of coronavirus cases even as the state death toll continues to climb. New York’s “stay at home” order is having an impact on the number of coronavirus cases, governor Andrew Cuomo said, but yesterday’s death toll of 779 was the state’s worst single-day figure yet.
  • Linda Tripp, who made the tapes of Monica Lewinsky discussing her relationship with Bill Clinton, has reportedly died. Tripp’s recordings of Lewinsky decribing the extramarital affair ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment. The former Pentagon civil servant had reportedly been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer recently.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

9.53pm BST

Linda Tripp, who made Lewinsky tapes, has died – reports

Linda Tripp, who recorded Monica Lewinsky discussing her sexual relationship with then-president Bill Clinton, has died at 70, according to reports.

Tripp was a civil servant in the Pentagon when she became friends with Lewinsky and learned of her relationship with Clinton.

Tripp recorded Lewinsky discussing the extramarital affair, and the scandal ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment, although he was later acquitted by the Senate.

Tripp was reportedly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer recently, and her daughter posted on Facebook last night that she was on her deathbed.

Lewinsky reacted to news of Tripp’s diagnosis earlier today, saying she hoped for her recovery.

9.45pm BST

The Guardian’s Mario Koran reports on the latest from California:

Here are California’s latest numbers on coronavirus cases and deaths, as provided by governor Gavin Newsom:

  • 16,957: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases.
  • 1,154: The number of people in intensive care units, a 4.2% increase from the previous day.
  • 2,714: The number of people who have been hospitalized, a 3.9% increase from the previous day.
  • 442: The number of coronavirus deaths, including 68 in the past 24 hours, the highest single-day death toll yet.

Of the 6,306 cases analyzed by race:

  • Latinx Californians made up 30% of cases and 29% of deaths.
  • African Americans made up 6% of cases and 3% of deaths.
  • Asian Americans made up 14% of cases and 16% of deaths.

While the state isn’t on safe ground, Newsom expressed optimism that the rate of transmissions and hospitalizations from the virus appears to have slowed. Experts expect numbers to peak next week.

Meanwhile, workers across the state are facing dire economic consequences from the pandemic. About 2.4 million Californians have filed for unemployment since March 13, Newsom said.

9.41pm BST

The Guardian’s Mario Koran reports on the latest from California:

In states across the county, the racial make-up of those felled by the coronavirus has revealed alarming disparities for people of color.

A staggering 70% of deaths linked to coronavirus in Louisiana are African Americans — more than double the percentage of the state’s black population. Disparate numbers are emerging in other states across the south, including Georgia and Alabama.

Health experts worry the coronavirus is exacerbating already existing disparities within health outcomes. Blacks have disportionately high rates of asthma and hypertension and are more likely to work jobs that keep them out in the community.

Incomplete data in California hasn’t yet cut the same picture, but only 37% of the confirmed coronavirus cases have been disaggregated to provide a racial view.

Within those counted, the number of cases tracks roughly with the state’s demographic make up, California governor Gavin Newsom said in a Tuesday presser. But disparities could emerge as more data becomes available.

9.30pm BST

The Guardian’s Mario Koran reports on the latest from California:

California governor Gavin Newsom is leading a charge to secure the needed protective equipment in the nation’s most populous state, levering the power of a mighty nation-state to help other states obtain what they need.

Speaking at a noon press conference, Newsom re-upped comments he told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow when he announced deals that have been landed with a consortium of nonprofits to provide 200 million medical masks a month for California and other states.

California plans to spend 0m in state funds on protective gear and has to make a down payment of about half that amount in the following days.

“We’ve been competing against other states, against other nations, against our own federal government for PPE — coveralls, masks, shields, N95 masks — and we’re not waiting around any longer,’’ he told Maddow yesterday. “We decided enough is enough: let’s use the power of the purchasing power of the state of California as a nation-state,” he added.

To reach its “audacious goal” of over 500m masks needed in California, the state is turning to community organizations and NGOs to plug into their PPE pipelines. It’s also looking to its contracts with large vendors, which has provided 41 m masks the state has already distributed.

The state is also tapping defense contractor Patel, which has manufactured technology that can clean and sterilize N-95, and make them ready for reuse. The technology, which can clean up to 80,000 maks a day, is expected to be ready next week,

“This is not a silver bullet, there are always challenges in anything we’re attempting of this scale”, said Mark Ghilarducci, director of California’s office of emergency services.

Updated at 10.22pm BST

9.20pm BST

The White House has reportedly signaled opposition to Democratic requests for the next coronavirus relief bill.

Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said yesterday that he would ask Congress to pass a bill allocating an additional 0 billion in small business loans. (The original stimulus bill gave 0 billion to small businesses, and those funds appear to be rapidly dwindling.)

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is taking up the request, but Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and House speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement today requesting that the bill also include 0 billion for hospitals and state and local businesses.

Politico reports:

And by Wednesday afternoon, White House officials privately signaled opposition to Democrats’ efforts to add billions in funding for hospitals and state governments, sending the delicate bipartisan talks further into a tailspin. …

Republicans haven’t totally ruled out Democrats’ request and multiple officials familiar with the ongoing discussions said their demands could be addressed in future coronavirus legislation.

The debate over whether to allocate funds for hospitals and state and local governments could at the very least slow the bill’s passage, a disappointing prospect to the White House considering the administration wants to fast-track approval of the additional money for small businesses.

9.11pm BST

Congressman Thomas Massie signaled he would once again oppose any effort to pass a coronavirus relief bill by unanimous consent, which could force lawmakers to return to Washingtona as the city and the surrounding region see a surge of coronavirus cases.

The Trump administration is calling on Congress to pass a bill allocating an additional 0 billion in small business loans. The original stimulus package incuded 0 billion for small businesses.

“Once again, they’re recommending just let Nancy Pelosi pass it on her own, that we can all stay home,” Massie told Fox Business. “And I’m saying that’s not going to fly.”

Massie also opposed efforts to approve the stimulus package by unanimous consent, forcing House members to return to Washington to get the bill passed.

Many people, including the president, criticized Massie for the move, especially after several lawmakers who were present for the vote later said they had contracted coronavirus.

8.55pm BST

The Guardian’s Daniel Strauss reports:

Former vice president Joe Biden signaled that his campaign is moving into a different phase of picking a running mate after Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign earlier today.

During a fundraiser on Wednesday, Biden was asked whether he should announce a vice presidential nominee in June, after the final Democratic primary.

Biden, speaking a few hours after Sanders dropped out, said that “we are putting in place, we can do with abandon now, a mechanism being able to vet the vice-presidential potential picks.”

Biden said his team would start the process for picking a running mate in the next few weeks.

“In the coming weeks we’re going to put together before the end of the month, start looking at candidates and I’m looking for someone who will be a partner in this progress,” Biden said, according to a pool report of the fundraiser. “Someone who is simpatico, and someone who’s ready to be present on a moment’s notice.”

8.43pm BST

Americans are becoming less satisfied with the federal government’s response to coronavirus, according to a new Monmouth University poll.

A Monmouth poll released today showed 54% of Americans believe the federal government has not gone far enough to slow the spread of coronavirus. That’s up from 45% in late March. The portion of Americans who say the government’s actions have been appropriate has also decreased from 47% to 35%.

In comparison, 60% of Americans say the actions taken by state governments to slow the spread have been appropriate, while 30% say state governments have not gone far enough.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appears to be the most trusted public-facing official when it comes to delivering information on the pandemic.

Fauci was named by 35% of respondents as the most trusted official, in comparison to 23% for New York governor Andrew Cuomo and 20% for Trump.

8.23pm BST

Detroit mayor Mike Duggan said there were 26 more deaths in his city in the last 24 hours but said they “are seeing the line, the curve, beginning to flatten out”.

“This is the hardest part of this job,” Duggan said during Wednesday’s coronavirus press briefing. “But when you look at the trend lines this reinforces what I said yesterday; we’re seeing the beginning of a glimmer of light.”

Duggan presses that promising numbers should not mean any relaxation of the social distancing guidelines: “Do we care enough about each other that when it’s 67 degrees and sunny, we don’t go and gather together and give this virus new energy. Because we are starting to weaken it, and if we don’t give it new energy by clustering, we are going to continue to be successful.”

7.58pm BST

Broadway producers have extended the suspension of all shows through the first week of June per the latest medical guidance, according to a statement from the trade association representing producers and theater owners for the Great White Way.

“Our top priority continues to be the health and well-being of Broadway theatregoers and the thousands of people who work in the theatre industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers, and many other dedicated professionals.” said Broadway League president Charlotte St Martin on Wednesday.

St Martin added: “Broadway will always be at the very heart of the Big Apple, and we join with artists, theatre professionals, and fans in looking forward to the time when we can once again experience live theatre together.”

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on an injustry that abruptly closed on 12 March after drawing 14.8m patrons and grossing .8bn last season. A number of shows planning spring openings have abandoned those plans entirely, including Hangmen and a revival of Edward Albee’s Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, while several others have moved to the fall.

Updated at 8.05pm BST

7.27pm BST

“If we wait for a pandemic to appear, it’ll be too late to prepare.”

So said George W Bush in 2005. He read a book about the 1918-1919 flu pandemic and “became obsessed” with the idea that the US needed a comprehensive plan to prepare.

Resurfacing, here, this article from ABC a few days ago, spotted by the Guardian’s Oliver Conroy:

In the summer of 2005, President George W Bush was on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, when he began flipping through an advance reading copy of a new book about the 1918 flu pandemic. He couldn’t put it down.

Apparently some preps were made, others not, but a lot of work was done and has been in place ever since.

ABC noted:

Bush declined, through a spokesman, to comment on the unfolding crisis or discuss the current response. But his remarks from 15 years ago still resonate.

“If we wait for a pandemic to appear,” he warned, “it will be too late to prepare. And one day many lives could be needlessly lost because we failed to act today.”

Updated at 7.36pm BST

6.59pm BST

The White House is reportedly having discussions about reopening the economy next month, which could cause friction with health experts who have warned against lifting “stay at home” orders too quickly.

CNN reports:

Officials said the options being discussed on reopening the country vary widely in scope, from recommendations on benchmarks for when individual states can begin easing restrictions to a nationwide ‘big bang’ that Trump previewed Tuesday evening on Fox News. The officials said the conversations were still preliminary and would likely evolve over the course of the next weeks.

Still, some officials have even begun mulling the type of event Trump may want to mark the day when nationwide restrictions are lifted after he suggested a ‘big celebration’ when the crisis is over. …

Multiple officials said this week the discussions could lead to a clash between health and economic advisers, who have disagreed over the past month on the extent and length of distancing recommendations for Americans.

Some of the president’s supporters also appear to be pushing for reopening the economy. Fox News host Laura Ingraham encouraged Trump to set a May 1 deadline for reopening in a tweet this morning.

6.45pm BST

Barack Obama called for a “robust system of testing and monitoring” to confront the coronavirus crisis.

The former president said social distancing practices were key to flattening the curve of coronavirus cases, but he empashized the country would not be able to relax those restrictions until a system of testing and tracking was in place.

The United States is now conducting nearly 700,000 coronavirus tests each week, but experts say that rate is not enough to sufficiently track the spread of the virus and allow the economy to reopen.

6.30pm BST

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign, making Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. The Vermont senator promised to continue working to ensure progressive proposals are included in the party’s platform.
  • New York broke its record for the highest single-day coronavirus death toll for the second consecutive day. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced 779 New Yorkers died of coronavirus yesterday, bringing the state’s total death toll to 6,268.
  • The US had confirmed more than 400,000 cases of coronavirus. Yesterday was the deadliest day in the country’s crisis yet, with at least 1,939 Americans dying of coronavirus.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

6.21pm BST

New York governor Andrew Cuomo ended his briefing where he started, by emphasizing the stark discrepancy between the state flattening the curve and simultaneously recording a record number of deaths.

“We are flattening the curve,” Cuomo said. “Thank God.”

But the governor reiterated that residents cannot get “complacent” about social distancing practices. “It’s what we’re doing that’s working,” Cuomo said. “Keep doing it.”

Cuomo said the good news of the curve flattening had to be kept in perspective of the awful news that 779 New Yorkers died of coronavirus yesterday.

“I went through 9/11,” Cuomo said. “That this should literally eclipse that in terms of number of deaths in this state — it’s unimaginable.”

New York’s coronavirus death toll of 6.268 is more than double the death toll from the September 11 attacks.

6.10pm BST

New York govenor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged that the state’s death toll may be understating the number of coronavirus victims because some people have been dying at home.

“I think that’s a very real possibility,” Cuomo said of a potential under-count.

The governor said the state is looking at other models to try to incorporate data about at-home deaths because most data points currently come from hospitals.

6.04pm BST

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said he would sign an executive order to make all residents eligible for absentee voting in the state’s June 23 primary.

It has not yet been determined whether any in-person polling places will be open for the primary, Cuomo said.

His comments come a day after Wisconsin’s chaotic primary, which was disrupted by voters’ fears about contracting coronavirus at polling sites.

Updated at 6.06pm BST

6.01pm BST

Governor Andrew Cuomo defended New York’s response to the coronavirus crisis after the New York Times published an investigation showing the state and city missed early opportunities to prepare.

“I think New York was early, and I think the actions we took were more dramatic than most and frankly were criticized for being premature,” Cuomo said.

But other localities, including San Francisco, took steps like closing schools days before New York did, which may have accelerated the spread of the virus.

5.57pm BST

New York governor Andrew Cuomo was asked whether he would reduce essential services like grocery stores and public transportation as the death toll rsies.

“I don’t think we can reduce the essential services,” Cuomo said, arguing it’s impossible to tell people to “eat less” or use fewer prescriptions.

The governor noted earlier that many essential workers are people of color, and communities of color are seeing disproportionately high rates of coronavirus deaths.

5.50pm BST

Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state is examining why Latinx and African American New Yorkers are dying of coronavirus at a disproportionately high rate.

Cuomo noted that many essential workers who cannot work remotely are people of color, putting them at a higher risk of contracting the virus.

Cuomo pledged to do more coronavirus testing in communities of color to help track the spread of the virus.

5.42pm BST

New York once again sees highest single-day death toll

New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state had broken its record for the biggest single-day death toll for the second consecutive day.

“The bad news isn’t just bad; the bad news is terrible,” Cuomo said after noting the state is flattening the curve of coronavirus cases.

New York recorded 779 deaths yesterday, putting the state’s total death toll at 6,268. Cuomo said he would order flags in the state to be flown at half-mast in honor of the victims.

5.39pm BST

New York is flattening the curve, Cuomo says

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the state is seeing the effect of social distancing and the curve of coronavirus cases is starting to flatten.

The governor noted that the rate of hospitalizations is down, and some hospitals are releasing more patients than they are admitting.

“Social distancing is working,” Cuomo said. “It is flattening the curve.”

But Cuomo emphasized that New Yorkers need to continue to be vigilant about practicing social distancing to avoid a resurgence of cases.

Updated at 5.41pm BST

5.34pm BST

US confirms 400,000 cases of coronavirus

The US has now confirmed 400,000 cases of coronavirus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins.

The country’s coronavirus death toll is just shy of 13,000, and officials predict that figure will continue to rise over the coming days.

Here is the Guardian’s map on the latest numbers state by state:

5.20pm BST

Biden says he will be ‘reaching out’ to Sanders

Joe Biden has released a statement on the suspension of Bernie Sanders’ campaign, commending his rival for the coalition he has built and promising to work with him moving forward.

“He hasn’t just run a political campaign; he’s created a movement,” Biden said. “And make no mistake about it, I believe it’s a movement that is as powerful today as it was yesterday. That’s a good thing for our nation and our future.”

Biden said he would be “reaching out” to Sanders, as the former vice president seeks to unify the Democratic party before the general election.

“You have put the interest of the nation — and the need to defeat Donald Trump — above all else,” Biden said. “And for that Jill and I are grateful. But we also want you to know: I’ll be reaching out to you. You will be heard by me.”

Biden also made a specific pitch to Sanders’ supporters: “I see you, I hear you, and I understand the urgency of what it is we have to get done in this country. I hope you will join us. You are more than welcome. You’re needed.”

5.13pm BST

Although he is suspending his campaign, Bernie Sanders said he would remain on the ballot and continue to gather delegates in future primaries.

“While Joe Biden will be the nominee, we must continue working to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic Convention, where we will be able to exert significant influence over the party platform and other functions,” Sanders said.

He added that his influence on the party platform would help Democrats to unify and increase the chances of victory against Trump in November.

5.07pm BST

Bernie Sanders congratulated Joe Biden on his victory in the Democratic priamry, calling the former vice president “a very decent man.”

Looking ahead to the general election, Sanders pledged to work with Biden “to move our progressive ideas forward.”

Sanders closed by saying how he and his wife, Jane, have been moved by the support they have seen across the country. “Let us go forward together,” Sanders told his supporters. “The struggle continues.”

5.04pm BST

Sanders confirms he is dropping out, calling victory ‘virtually impossible’

Bernie Sanders has formally announced he is suspending his campaign in a livestream to supporters.

“I wish I could give you better news, but I think you know the truth,” Sanders said. The Vermony senator noted that Joe Biden’s delegate lead had made victory “virtually impossible.”

“I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful, and so today I am announcing the suspension of my campaign,” Sanders said.

Sanders acknowledged his withdrawal from the race had been a “difficult and painful decision” that came after an “honest assessment” of his prospects.

5.00pm BST

Bernie Sanders said his movement had won the “ideological struggle” of the Democratic party, even though he did not win the nomination.

Sanders said a number of his positions that were previously considered extreme, such as raising the minimum wage to an hour, have now become mainstream.

4.57pm BST

Sanders thanks supporters in livestream

Bernie Sanders is addressing his supporters via livestream to formally announce he is suspending his presidential campaign.

The Vermont senator thanked his supporters for powering his candidacy through phone banks, door-knocking and 10 million donations.

Sanders applauded his supporters for creating a “new vision” of what America could be, particularly on issues like overhauling the healthcare system and raising the minimum wage.

4.51pm BST

Trump has weighed in on Bernie Sanders suspending his campaign, blaming Elizabeth Warren for his loss and imploring Sanders’ supporters to back him instead of Joe Biden in November.

4.40pm BST

Joe Biden’s victory in the Democratic presidential primary comes almost exactly a year after he launched his third bid for the White House.

Once Biden announced his candidacy, he became the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, a title he largely held on to for the duration of the race.

Biden’s worst weeks came in Feburary, when he lost the first three contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Bernie Sanders’ strong performances across the three states briefly made him the frontrunner in the race.

However, Biden’s victory in South Carolina followed by a series of wins on Super Tuesday gave him the rebound he needed to surpass Sanders and ultimately win the nomination.

4.31pm BST

Bernie Sanders, the 78-year-old senator from Vermont who reshaped American politics with his youth-led movement for sweeping social change, has ended his campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

His departure all but ensures the former vice-president Joe Biden will be the Democratic presidential nominee in an election against Donald Trump amid the rapidly escalating coronavirus crisis.

For weeks, Sanders resisted calls to leave the race despite falling almost hopelessly behind his rival as the pandemic forced the candidates to retreat from the campaign trail and governors to delay several key primary elections. Against the worsening economic and public health crises, Sanders found a new urgency for his progressive agenda, the centerpiece of which is a single-payer proposal that would guarantee health coverage for every American.

In the final weeks before his exit, Sanders effectively turned his campaign into a coronavirus response effort, hosting virtual events on the virus and raising money for charities helping those affected by the outbreak.

4.28pm BST

Bernie Sanders’ decision to suspend his presidential campaign comes after a series of losses to Joe Biden in recent primaries.

The Vermont senator was briefly viewed as the frontrunner in the race afrer winning the New Hampshire primary and the Nevada caucuses in February.

However, Biden quickly rebounded with a win in the South Carolina primary and a series of victotries on Super Tuesday. The winning streak gave Biden a delegate lead over Sanders that many deemed insurmountable.

4.25pm BST

Bernie Sanders said he would address supporters via livestream in about 20 minutes to formally announce he is suspending his campaign.

4.23pm BST

Bernie Sanders suspends presidential campaign

Bernie Sanders is suspending his presidential campaign, making Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

4.17pm BST

Trump said he believed the coronavirus crisis would end “sooner rather than later,” as experts express cautious optimism about the effects social distancing has had on the number of cases.

“Once we OPEN UP OUR GREAT COUNTRY, and it will be sooner rather than later, the horror of the Invisible Enemy, except for those that sadly lost a family member or friend, must be quickly forgotten,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “Our Economy will BOOM, perhaps like never before!!!”

The president also once again bragged about viewership of his daily White House briefings on the coronavirus response, saying “the ratings are through the roof.”

Trump mocked some of his critics who have called on networks to stop broadcasting the briefings because the president has repeatedly made false statements during them.

4.02pm BST

White House confirms Kayleigh McEnany will become press secretary

The White House has released a statement confirming that Kayleigh McEnany will replace Stephanie Grisham as press secretary, a day after Grisham’s role change was announced.

Alyssa Farah will also become the White House’s new director of strategic communications after serving as press secretary of the defense department.

Trump’s reelection campaign, where McEnany most recently worked as national press secretary, released a statement on her move. “Kayleigh McEnany is a first class professional who will serve President Trump and the American people well,” said campagin manger Brad Parscale.

But a number of critics have raised concerns about McEnany’s past comments on a number of issues, including the coronavirus pandemic. McEnany incorrectly said in February that coronavirus would not affect America because of Trump’s leadership.

“This president will always put America first. He will always protect American citizens. We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here. We will not see terrorism come here,” McEnany said on Feb. 25. “And isn’t that refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama?”

3.48pm BST

Latinx and black New Yorkers are dying of coronavirus at a disproportionately high rate, according to newly published data on the city’s fatalities.

The data shows 521 Latinx New Yorkers have died of the virus, as well as 428 black New Yorkers. Put together, the two groups account for 61% of New York’s coronavirus deaths, even though they account for roughly half of the city’s population.

Other major cities, including Detroit and Chicago, have also seen disproportionately higher death rates among people of color, as the Guardian’s Kenya Evelyn has reported:

3.37pm BST

Local leaders and health experts are warning that the Washington metropolitan area is “an emerging hotspot” in the coronavirus crisis.

Nearly 9,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the region, according to the Wasington Post, and at least 189 people have died of the virus.

Dr Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, has repeatedly named the DC region as an area of concern for the next round of hot spots.

“We are concerned about the metro area of Washington and Baltimore,” Birx said this morning.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser expressed frustration Monday about residents ignoring social distancing guidelines after photos surfaced of a crowd gathering at a local fish market, which was promptly shuttered.

“We had to close that market because the social distancing requirements were not being met,” Bowser said. “We cannot express enough that staying at home is every individual’s responsibility to save lives.”

3.20pm BST

Projection shows expected US death toll falling to 60,000

A commonly cited model of the US coronavirus crisis now predicts that 60,000 Americans will die of the virus by early August, marking a significant decrease from past projections.

Reuters reports:

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model is one of several that the White House task force has cited.

It now projects U.S. deaths at more than 60,000 by Aug. 4, down from the nearly 82,000 fatalities it had forecast on Tuesday.

The White House coronavirus task force has previously projected 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die.

The institute also moved up its projected peak in the number to U.S. deaths to this Sunday, when it predicted 2,212 people will succumb to the disease. The revision moves forward the projected peak by four days, suggesting the strain on the country’s healthcare system will begin to abate a little sooner than previously expected.

Surgeon general Jerome Adams similarly said yesterday that he expects the death toll to fall below the 100,000 to 240,000 range previously predicted by the White House, thanks to Americans practicing social distancing.

“That’s absolutely my expectation, and I feel a lot more optimistic, again, because I’m seeing mitigation work,” Adams said.

3.08pm BST

Dr Anthony Facui predicted schools would be able to reopen in the fall, as early evidence indicates that social distancing is having a positive effect on the country’s number of coronavirus cases.

“Bottom line is, no absolute prediction, but I think we’re going to be in good shape,” Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said during the White House briefing yesterday.

While emphasizing there is still great uncertainty around how the coming months will unfold, Fauci said he expects that “by the time we get to the fall … we will have this under control enough that it certainly will not be the way it is now, where people are shutting schools.”

Many schools across the country are currently closed, and governors in several states have said schools will not reopen during this academic year.

2.56pm BST

The New York Times front page today includes a startling graphic on the city’s coronavirus death toll.

The newspaper used bars on a map to demonstrate the number of people who have died of the virus in each major city. The bar for New York goes past the newspaper’s masthead.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said that Monday was the deadliest day yet for the state since the coronavirus crisis started.

New York reported 731 deaths on Monday, bringing the state’s total death toll to 5,489. Most of those deaths have been concentrated in the New York Cirty area.

2.40pm BST

The Guardian’s Kenya Evelyn reports on how coronavirus is disproportionately affecting African Americans:

The disparity is especially stark in cities like New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit, where high concentrations of African Americans live.

Louisiana has the fourth largest number of Covid-19 cases in the country, and the majority of the Covid-19 deaths are in New Orleans, where black Americans constitute 60% of the population. “Slightly more than 70% of [coronavirus] deaths in Louisiana are African Americans,” the state’s governor, John Bel Edwards, said in a press conference on Monday. “That deserves more attention and we’re going to have to dig into that to see what we can do to slow that down.”

African Americans face a higher risk of exposure to the virus, mostly on account of concentrating in urban areas and working in essential industries. Only 20% of black workers reported being eligible to work from home, compared with about 30% of their white counterparts, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Experts also point to initial research showing a high prevalence of Covid-19 among those suffering from obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes – risk factors more common among black Americans. The virus is known to take a harsher toll on those with underlying health issues, and many hospitals are only testing those admitted for critical care.

Critics note that those risks are significantly exacerbated by racial inequities in healthcare, including facility closures and caps on public health insurance plans like Medicaid and Medicare. African Americans are twice as likely to lack health insurance compared with their white counterparts, and more likely to live in medically underserved areas, where primary care is sparse or expensive.

Unconscious racial bias can also contribute to unequal health outcomes, especially when health professionals are inexperienced with the culture of the community they serve, according to the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Governor JB Pritkzer of Illinois acknowledged racism’s role in the state’s response to the outbreak, but he called it “a much broader problem” that won’t be solved in a matter of weeks. “It’s hard to make up for decades, maybe centuries, of inequality of application of healthcare to people of color,” he said.

2.25pm BST

Intelligence community issued warning on coronavirus in November – report

US intelligence officials were warning of a virus sweeping through the Wuhan region of China as early as November, according to an ABC News report.

ABC News reports:

Concerns about what is now known to be the novel coronavirus pandemic were detailed in a November intelligence report by the military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI), according to two officials familiar with the document’s contents.

The report was the result of analysis of wire and computer intercepts, coupled with satellite images. It raised alarms because an out-of-control disease would pose a serious threat to U.S. forces in Asia — forces that depend on the NCMI’s work. And it paints a picture of an American government that could have ramped up mitigation and containment efforts far earlier to prepare for a crisis poised to come home.

‘Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event,’ one of the sources said of the NCMI’s report. ‘It was then briefed multiple times to’ the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff and the White House.

This news follows reports that Trump’s top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, wrote memos starting in late January warning of a potential coronavirus pandemic with catastrophic consequences for Americans’ health and finances.

The president claimed yesterday that he had never seen Navarro’s memos, but their existence undermines his defense of the federal government’s early response to the pandemic, which has been widely criticized.

2.06pm BST

Trump says mail-in voting ‘doesn’t work out well for Republicans’

Trump urged Republicans to “fight very hard” against mail-in voting as Democrats work to expand absentee voting options amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting,” Trump tweeted. “Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”

Voter fraud is actually extremely rare, and many voters have been hesitant to cast their ballots in person out of fear of catching coronavirus at a polling site, as demonstrated by yesterday’s chaotic primary in Wisconsin.

Trump has previously suggested that mail-in voting could hurt Republicans’ chances in November, presumably because it would increase voter turnout.

During deliberations over the stimulus package, House Democrats pushed to give states billion in election assistance, but the final bill included only 0 million.

“The things they had in there were crazy,” Trump said of the Democratic proposals last week. “They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

1.46pm BST

US sees deadliest day yet in fight against coronavirus

Good morning, live blog readers.

The day is beginning with a grim statistic: yesterday was the deadliest day yet in the US since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

According to the Washington Post, at least 1,939 Americans died of coronavirus yesterday. That is the largest single-day death toll reported by any country since the pandemic began.

Overall, nearly 13,000 Americans have died of coronavirus, and health experts have warned this could be the worst week yet for the death toll.

However, there are also encouraging signs that Americans practicing social distancing is already having an effect on the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said yesterday that the state’s three-day average of hospitalizations is down, and surgeon general Jerome Adams predicted the overall US death toll would fall below 100,000, which was previously viewed as the lowest possibility.

“I know it’s hard, but we have to keep doing it,” Cuomo said of social distancing. “And, to the extent it takes an effort, remember at this time it is about ‘we’, and it is not about ‘me’”.

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Corona Virus, Health, Life and Style

How to meditate when it feels like everything is out of control

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “How to meditate when it feels like everything is out of control” was written by Steph Auteri, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 8th April 2020 09.30 UTC

As physical distancing measures continue, more people are turning to meditation, and Google searches for information are at an all-time high. It is a practice that has been used by many different cultures and in many different ways, but always to quiet the mind and make us less reactive.

In recent years, research on this ancient practice has shown that meditation may improve immune response, and also decrease stress and depression.

With everything that is happening in the world today, with everything that is out of our control, could meditation be the key to surviving quarantine?

When the first physical distancing measures were instated, my husband and I were already working from home. Now, on top of our jobs, we are also forced to manage our five-year-old’s distance learning. This juggling act often feels impossible, a rigged game in which nobody wins. Sometimes, being around my family – not being able to escape or to focus on one thing at a time – makes me want to scream. At night, I can’t fall asleep. My mind races.

When I get tired of chasing the thoughts in my head, I lie flat on my back, place my hands on my belly and follow my breath. I scan my body, systematically relaxing each part of me from my toes to my jaw. Finally, I sleep.

“We’re all feeling intense emotions right now,” says Jessica Morey, a mindfulness meditation teacher. “We’re cycling through panic and fear and overwhelm and sadness. A meditation practice can help us learn how to be with these intense emotions and shift toward compassion or recognize moments of joy.”

Don’t feel you have to do it right – and don’t worry if you think you’re doing it wrong

“There’s a myth about meditation that if you’re doing it right, you should feel bliss and calm and quiet in the mind,” says the meditation instructor Jay Michaelson. “Then, when you don’t experience that, you think you’re doing it wrong.” Michaelson suggests starting out with just five minutes of meditation. “If you can feel like 10% less of a wreck than when you started,” he says, “it’s totally worth it.”

You can slowly increase your meditation time by three to five minutes at a time as you feel ready, as you would increase weights or reps as part of an exercise routine.

Form a meditation habit

Anushka Fernandopulle, a Buddhist meditation teacher, recommends picking a time and the place where you can do meditation every day. “It can be just a normal chair or a cushion,” she says, “but the regularity can help a lot with developing a habit.”

Morey believes that finding a meditation buddy or a sitting group – anyone who could provide an extra measure of accountability – could also aid in developing a regular practice. It’s the reason why smartphone apps such as Headspace, Calm and Ten Percent Happier, which provide guided meditations and ongoing challenges, are so popular.

Simple meditation No 1: pay attention to your body and breath

Body-based meditations can be particularly grounding, and Fernandopulle shares a seated meditation that allows you to focus on just that.

Meditators should sit in a quiet, stable position, relaxing and bringing their attention to the sensations of the body sitting and breathing. If you remain focused on what’s going on in the body, it becomes easier to let thoughts and sounds come and go like so much background noise. And if you find yourself getting lost in thought, just gently bring your attention back to the body and the breath.

Simple meditation No 2: practice loving-kindness

Another common meditation – and one that can be particularly resonant at a time like this – is the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness meditation.

In this case, after settling into your seat, you silently repeat to yourself phrases of goodwill for yourself and for others: “May I be well. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.” After repeating those phrases to yourself several times, you can begin to wish others well, starting with your friends and family, moving outward to everyone in your neighborhood, and finally sending loving-kindness out into the entire world.

Simple meditation No 3: act mindfully throughout the day

If you don’t feel ready for seated meditation, Fernandopulle says you can practice mindfulness by focusing on your body as you engage in a simple physical task like washing dishes or walking.

“Try to keep attention anchored in the body or hands during the task,” she says. “Notice if your attention goes to daydreaming, worrying or planning. Gently bring the attention back and connect again with the physical activity.”

Taking it further: find the meditation practice that resonates with you

These forms of meditation, which allow us to focus on something simple like the body or the breath, or even a repetitive thought, are accessible to even the most beginner meditator. But as with exercise, if you don’t find a form of meditation you connect with, you probably won’t maintain your practice.

Many of the smartphone apps have introductory programs as well as higher-level meditation courses you can work your way through.

Similarly, there are some meditation luminaries who offer ongoing courses you can take via daily email, such as Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield’s 40-day Mindfulness Daily course.

Eventually, you may want to dig deeper in order to find the technique that works best for you. The turning point for me was reading davidji’s Secrets of Meditation. His book delves into what he described as “the many paths to oneness”, and contained chapters on the various types of meditation – from bodymind meditation to chanting meditation – and the various forms each of those types could take. His website acts as a living reference manual and also contains opportunities to take online courses and teacher trainings.

Sites like Audio Dharma, an archive of Dharma talks given at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California, contain a treasure trove of information on Buddhist teachings and meditation techniques. And Mindful provides also provides guided meditations and courses.

And of course, during this time, many brands and meditation teachers are making their teachings more accessible, with free access to their apps, or with virtual meditation sessions. Fernandopulle herself is doing guided meditations on Instagram Live every week.

Just remember: meditation won’t be a cure-all for everything you’re feeling right now. But what it can give you is a sense of control, and the ability to react to whatever life throws at you with greater equanimity.

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Health, India, World

Coronavirus news updates: India launches curfew as Italy tightens lockdown

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Merkel in quarantine; Spain set to extend state of emergency – as it happened” was written by Clea Skopeliti (now) and Hannah Mays, Haroon Siddique and Helen Davidson (earlier), for theguardian.com on Monday 23rd March 2020 00.05 UTC

12.00am GMT

Hi, this is Helen Sullivan. We are closing this blog. Thanks for following along. I will be bringing together all of the latest developments at our new coronavirus live blog here:

Updated at 12.07am GMT

11.41pm GMT

That’s all from me, Clea Skopeliti. Handing over to my colleague Helen Sullivan to take you through events as they develop.


11.04pm GMT

Summary

Here’s a summary of today’s coronavirus developments.

Updated at 11.09pm GMT

10.41pm GMT

Clinical trial launched

A European clinical trial involving some 3,200 people has been launched to test four possible experimental coronavirus treatments, French public health research body Inserm has said.

Participants will have been hospitalised with coronavirus and are expected to be drawn from Belgium, the UK, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and the Netherlands.

10.15pm GMT

UK residents have been told that “essential travel” does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks, whether for isolation purposes or holidays and that they should remain in their primary residence.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport updated its guidance to avoid non-essential travel in the UK, saying: “This guidance is for people planning to visit second homes or holiday premises during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays. People should remain in their primary residence. Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.”

The update follows a wave of people travelling to rural and remote areas to self-isolate. The trend has been condemned by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who underlined that it meant “extra pressure on essential services and on health services that are already more distant from people”. Similarly, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price has said self-isolaters should be prohibited from travelling to rural parts of Wales during the crisis.

Updated at 10.16pm GMT

10.00pm GMT

The Welsh government has warned that people will face a tough crackdown if they refuse to self-isolate and continue with non-essential travel during the outbreak.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said it is important members of the public follow the official advice to prevent further deaths.

“Self-isolation for those who have symptoms and social distancing by everyone is absolutely essential at this stage if we are to delay the spread of this virus and save lives,” the First Minister said.

“We all need to follow this advice now to protect each other and our families and to help ensure our NHS is not overwhelmed. Social distancing includes avoiding all but essential travel and if people don’t follow this advice we will have no choice but to use powers to enforce it.”

The First Minister’s warning follows a similar message from Boris Johnson, where he outlined that stricter measures would be enforced if social distancing was not observed.

Across Wales, 12 people with Covid-19 have died and a further 347 have tested positive for the virus.

9.23pm GMT

Georgian municipalities shut down

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia has announced that the government is shutting down the municipalities of Marneuli and Bolnisi, south to capital city of Tbilisi. The move comes as reportedly the Georgian healthcare authorities could not identify the source for the latest case confirmed in Marneuli, and follows the country’s declaration of a state of emergency yesterday.

Updated at 10.03pm GMT

9.04pm GMT

Brazil has just announced its latest coronavirus statistics. Twenty five dead and 1,546 confirmed cases as of today. That is up from 18 and 1,128 yesterday.

South-east Brazil has so far borne the brunt of the crisis and of the fatalities 22 were in Brazil’s most populous state, São Paulo and three in the neighbouring state of Rio de Janeiro.

Both states are now in a state of partial shutdown with São Paulo set to enter a two-week period of quarantine on Tuesday. Streets were eerily empty on Sunday in parts of Rio although supermarkets and some shops remain open.

Brazil’s far-right president – whose response to the crisis has been widely criticised – has attacked the governors of Rio and São Paulo – who he sees as potential presidential rivals in the 2022 election – for the drastic steps they are taking.

“They are creating a climate of terror,” by trying to shut airports and keep people at home, Bolsonaro said on Saturday.

But there have now been five nights of protests against Bolsonaro’s administration and his handling of coronavirus here and many observers believe his reaction has already wrecked any hope of re-election.

8.58pm GMT

McDonald’s has said it is closing all its UK and Ireland restaurants from Monday night. In a statement, its UK CEO, Paul Pomroy, said: “I am incredibly grateful to our brilliant employees who have been working hard to continue to serve you safely in difficult circumstances.

“Over the last 24 hours, it has become clear that maintaining safe social distancing whilst operating busy takeaway and Drive Thru restaurants is increasingly difficult and therefore we have taken the decision to close every restaurant in the UK and Ireland by 7pm on Monday 23 March.

“We will be working closely with community groups across the UK and Ireland to distribute food from our restaurants to those most in need, and ahead of closing tomorrow evening, will ensure frontline health workers and emergency services personnel do not have to pay for any food or drink in our restaurants on sight of their work pass.

“Take care of one another in these unprecedented times, we look forward to seeing you again as soon as it is safe for us to reopen.”

Paul Pomroy

Updated at 9.31pm GMT

8.43pm GMT

Our Australian team have launched their blog today to follow all the developments there.

8.34pm GMT

NHS healthcare workers received a round of applause and flowers from Tesco staff in a show of support for their work against the pandemic.

Tesco told the PA news agency that staff at stores across the country independently decided to make the gesture as part of the ‘NHS hour’ it has introduced. This will allow healthcare workers to arrive an hour earlier every Sunday to buy supplies.

8.14pm GMT

Grenada has reported its first case of coronavirus, local sources report. The patient is said to have recently travelled from the UK.

8.04pm GMT

A 95-year-old Czech man infected with the new coronavirus has died, the country’s first victim of the pandemic, the chief of the Czech crisis committee said.

Reuters reports that the patient is said to have been suffering from a series of other conditions.

The Czech Republic has reported 1,120 cases of coronavirus infection.

7.59pm GMT

The Costa Rican government has announced 17 more Covid-19 cases, bringing the total to 134. President Carlos Alvarado said the virus how now spread to all parts of the country and urged Costa Ricans not to drop their guard against the virus.

There is still hope coronavirus can be contained in the Central American country amid a nationwide lockdown. Costa Rica has the second largest outbreak in the region behind Panama, where cases have surged over the weekend to 245 and three deaths.

Further north, Guatemala has started an eight day curfew to prevent the spread of the virus after the country recorded 17 cases on Saturday.

7.49pm GMT

From PA Media: A fourth patient diagnosed with Covid-19 in Ireland has died. The patient is reported to have had an underlying condition.

7.41pm GMT

First confirmed case in Syria, health minister announces

Syria’s health minister Nizar Yazigi has announced the country’s first confirmed coronavirus case, AP reports.

Updated at 7.43pm GMT

7.29pm GMT

The Archbishop of Canterbury has started a call to prayer on Twitter amidst the pandemic.

7.16pm GMT

International Olympic Committee considers postponement

The International Olympic Committee is considering a postponement of Tokyo 2020, with four weeks until it has to make a decision.

The BBC reports the IOC saying that cancellation is “not on the agenda”, but a ‘scaled-down’ Games will be considered.

Updated at 11.05pm GMT

7.04pm GMT

112 new deaths in France, reports say

France’s coronavirus death toll rose by 112 on Sunday to 674, senior health official Jerome Salomon said. The number of confirmed infections increased by 1,559 to 16,018, according to Reuters.

Updated at 7.17pm GMT

6.58pm GMT

The UK’s education secretary Gavin Williamson has reiterated guidance on school attendance for children of key workers.

In a statement, he said: “Tomorrow, all schools will be closed except for vulnerable children and those of critical workers. If your work is not critical in the response to Coronavirus then please keep your child at home. This will help to halt the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.

“We will be closely monitoring what is happening in schools and will ensure they get the support they need in the weeks and months ahead.”

Updated at 7.01pm GMT

6.51pm GMT

An 18-year-old with underlying conditions has died in England, the NHS has said. They are thought to be the youngest person in the UK to die of the virus so far.

6.47pm GMT

The global fashion retailer H&M has announced tonight that it is using its global supply chain to produce “personal protective equipment” such as masks, gloves and aprons for use in hospitals and by health care workers to help tackle the widespread effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,

The H&M Group said its supply chain teams around the world were collectively supporting initial efforts to support as many countries and communities as possible worldwide.

Anna Gedda, head of sustainability at the H&M Group, said:The Coronavirus is dramatically affecting each and every one of us, and H&M Group is, like many other organisations, trying our best to help in this extraordinary situation. We see this is as a first step in our efforts to support in any way we can. We are all in this together, and have to approach this as collectively as possible.

6.34pm GMT

The High Street coffee chain Pret Manger has this evening reversed a previous decision to cut the working hours of its employees by 25%, agreeing to continue to continue to award them full pay and following the decision to close all 400 UK stores.

The company’s staff were told on Thursday it was triggering contractual clauses relating to “unforeseen, exceptional circumstances” caused by the coronavirus outbreak and that the measures would remain in place for at least three months. On Saturday evening it announced the closure of all its UK stores, after closing seating areas and switching to a ‘takeaway model’ from Wednesday.

A Pret spokesperson said: “We have decided to continue to pay all our UK employees 100% of their normal hours and pay, reversing our previously proposed reduction in hours. This decision follows the Government’s announcement on Friday that it will pay a percentage of wages due to the coronavirus impact.

“This allows us to keep our teams safe at home and ensure they are paid 100% of their normal hours throughout March and April, despite the fact that our UK shops are not currently open.
“We have made a commitment to protect jobs across Pret and our number one priority is to look after our teams throughout this pandemic. We will keep reviewing the situation as it develops and in light of the continuing cost pressures on the business.”

6.30pm GMT

Opera star Plácido Domingo has tested positive for coronavirus.

In a Facebook post, the 79-year-old Spanish tenor wrote: “I feel it is my moral duty to announce to you that I have tested positive for COVID19, the Corona virus. My Family and I are all in self isolation for as long as it is deemed medically necessary. Currently we are all in good health but I experienced fever and cough symptoms therefore deciding to get tested and the result came back positive.

“I beg everyone to be extremely careful, follow the basic guidelines by washing your hands frequently, keeping at least a 6 feet distance from others, doing everything you can to stop the virus from spreading and please above all stay home if you can ! Together we can fight this virus and stop the current worldwide crisis, so we can hopefully return to our normal daily lives very soon. Please follow your local government’s guidelines and regulations for staying safe and protecting not just yourselves but our entire community.”

Updated at 7.00pm GMT

6.12pm GMT

That’s it from me, Hannah Mays. Handing over now to my colleague Clea Skopeliti

5.56pm GMT

Spain’s prime minister has called for the European Union to roll out its own “Marshall Plan,” describing a program of public investment capable of countering the deep economic blow of the crisis.

The country has emerged as one of the hardest hit in Europe, with the death toll soaring to 1,720. The country has 28,572 confirmed cases – a number that is expected to rise in the coming days as expanded testing is rolled out.

Officials have warned that the worst is yet to come. “We’re in a critical moment, the days ahead will be hard,” the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said in a televised address on Saturday. “We have to ready ourselves psychologically and emotionally.”

Around 12% – or 3,475 of the confirmed cases – are doctors, nurses and others on the frontlines of the coronavirus battle, the head of Spain’s health emergency centre, Fernando Simón said Sunday. Earlier this week, Spain lost its first healthcare worker to the virus: A 52-year-old nurse from the Basque Country.

As the government scrambles to contain the virus, a near-total lockdown has been imposed with residents ordered to stay in their homes save for essential trips. Sánchez said on Sunday that he would seek to extend the emergency measures until 11 April.

He also announced additional measures, including a 30-day restriction on travellers arriving from non-EU countries, save for those on essential travel. As well, regional governments will be given the power to take control of private care homes amid concerns that the unchecked spread of the virus in care facilities could be linked to the deaths of at least 100 people.

While the country struggles to contain the virus, many worry about the economic impact it will have on a country where the unemployment rate already ranks among the highest in the industrialised world.

Praising the EU’s response to the crisis so far, Sánchez called for an EU-wide plan aimed at reinvigorating the economies of member states. “We need to articulate a grand Marshall Plan of reconstruction,” he said.

“Europe is at war against the coronavirus. And we have to respond with all of our weapons, with all our tools.”

5.51pm GMT

Angela Merkel in quarantine

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in quarantine after a doctor who gave her a vaccine tests positive for coronavirus.

Merkel’s spokesman said the German chancellor, who is 65, was informed about the doctor’s test shortly after holding a news conference Sunday announcing new measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel had received a precautionary vaccine Friday against pneumococcal infection.

Seibert said in a statement that Merkel would undergo “regular tests” in the coming days and continue with her work from home for the time being.

Merkel had earlier expressed her gratitude to Germans who were following the rules on social distancing, saying it was important to remain at least 1.5 meters (about five feet) apart to reduce the likelihood of infection.

Updated at 6.03pm GMT

5.49pm GMT

Greece’s prime minister has announced that as of 6 AM tomorrow a curfew will come into effect nationwide. In a televised address – his third in less than a week – Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the measure will prohibit “the circulation and movement of citizens” deemed to be “purposeless” – the strictest restriction, yet, in the fight to contain the novel coronavirus spreading further.

“It is perhaps the last step that an organised democratic state [can take],” he said. “ A step which must be taken in time, so that it is not taken in vain, because time isn’t counted, any more, in days but in hours,” he told the nation adding that in Italy, every two minutes, a life was now being lost to Covid-19.

Exceptions to the rule would be made for citizens going to and from work; for the provision of food and medicine; for visits to a doctor and for those who needed care; for those exercising individually, or with one other person, and for people walking dogs. Those travelling to their permanent place of residence would also be exempt from the measure.

But once enforced anyone out on the streets would have to have their passports or identity cards with them at all times, the centre right leader said insisting that the full force of the law would be imposed on those who violated the restriction. Fines of 150 euro will be given in the case of infractions.

Although Greece has managed to contain the spread of Covid-19 infections, numbers are going up and privately officials say they expect a big leap in the coming days. On Sunday, health authorities announced that in the past 24 hours there had been 94 new cases of people testing positive for the virus with a total of 624 confirmed coronavirus cases countrywide. To date, 15 people have died from the disease (with the exception of three, all men). Altogether 124 have been hospitalised with 34 requiring intensive care – double the figure over that released yesterday. Most of those who have contracted the virus are in Athens. The average age of those hospitalised is 64.

Greece was among the first EU member states to announce draconian measures to stem the virus, starting with the closure of schools on March 10, followed by the shutting of nightclubs, gyms, cinemas and theatres two days later and cafes, restaurants, bars and shopping malls on March 13. All retail shops were ordered closed on March 18. In his address, Mitsotakis thanked the vast majority of Greeks for upholding the restrictions, chastising the “frivolous few [who] undermine the safety of most.”

Greeks could be seen in droves converging on beaches on Saturday to enjoy the warm weather. A mass exodus of residents from Athens and other urban centres to villages in the countryside has also alarmed authorities who fear transmission rates spreading to remote areas nationwide.

Updated at 5.58pm GMT

5.15pm GMT

Our UK focussed coronavirus blog is reporting on Boris Johnson’s daily press conference which is currently happening. You can follow here.

5.07pm GMT

Poland went ahead with six by-elections on Sunday and reaffirmed plans to hold presidential elections on May 10 as pressure rises to call off the poll amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have to prepare this. That is the law in our country – nothing has changed,” Tomasz Grzelewski, spokesman for the National Electoral Commission, said. “If there was a decision by the President about introducing a state of emergency, then we would behave differently.”

Poland has shuttered schools, cinemas and theatres, while limiting public gatherings to no more than 50 people. It has also closed its borders to foreigners and introduced a “state of epidemic”.

The country has 627 confirmed cases of coronavirus and seven deaths as of Sunday.
But despite calls from opposition critics and candidates to call off the presidential elections, the government says it will not postpone them as it could only do so if it introduces a state of emergency.

Earlier this month, voters turned out in low numbers in France’s mayoral elections after the government imposed stringent restrictions on public life. The second round of the election was then called off.

Grzelewski said protective measures had been taken to ensure the by-election went ahead smoothly. Staff at voting booths had masks, disinfectant gel and gloves for voters to use. Voters were also to be given single-use pens to mark their ballots.

4.53pm GMT

Germany bans meetings of more than two people

Germany will ban public meetings of more than two people unless they are about work on slowing the spread of the coronavirus, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia state said on Sunday.

“The danger lies in the direct social interaction,” state premier Armin Laschet said, adding that the federal government and regional states had agreed on the stricter rules.

Updated at 4.58pm GMT

4.49pm GMT

Spain’s Interior Ministry has said that Spain will impose 30 day entry restrictions on most foreigners from midnight at ports and airports. Spanish nationals, foreign residents, air crew, cargo workers, health workers and diplomats will be exempted from restrictions.

4.43pm GMT

23 dead and 83 injured in Bogota prison riots

Colombia’s prisons were rocked by riots and protests overnight, with inmates demanding better protection against the spread of Covid-19 in the South American country’s jails.

Shootouts were heard outside some prisons as videos circulated on social media showing fires and unrest.

One video appears to show armed riot police outside La Modelo prison in Bogotá, the capital, as shots and explosions can be heard inside.

Another video appeared to show a fire raging inside the same prison.

Colombia’s overcrowded prisons have long been hotbeds for organised crime, with violent power struggles between inmates and guards flaring up on occasion. Earlier this month, the government banned visitors to prisons in a bid to isolate inmates from the coronavirus.

“The authorities must urgently hand over an official report on the protests and riots that occurred last night in the country’s jails,” José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, tweeted on Sunday morning. “Many of the detainees demanded conditions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They denounce several dead and wounded.”

The Justice Ministry said Sunday that the rioting left 23 dead and 83 injured in Bogota.

Prison authorities have not yet reported how many casualties resulted from the disturbances.

Bogotá’s mayor, Claudia López, joined the chorus calling for a report on Sunday morning, tweeting that if authorities don’t “face up and explain [what happened] to families of prisoners, there will be another right, but of distressed families.”

The riots broke out on the same night that Colombia confirmed its first death as a result of Covid-19. On Sunday morning, confirmed cases stood at 231, with two people dying from the disease.

A nationwide quarantine – expanding on those currently in place in cities across the country, including Bogotá – will come into effect at midnight on Tuesday.

Updated at 5.52pm GMT

4.30pm GMT

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said at a press conference that “Life shouldn’t feel normal right now, so if your life still feels entirely normal, ask yourself if you are doing the right things”

She also said that people shouldn’t go shopping except for essentials or gather at parties, celebrations or weddings. She said that gathering together in the park or at the beach should be avoided, because this is almost as dangerous as going to the pub.

4.22pm GMT

Mozambique has confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus – a 75-year-old man who had recently returned from Britain, health minister Armindo Tiago said on Sunday.
The man returned to the country mid-March, Tiago told journalists.

4.17pm GMT

360 new deaths in Lombardy, reports say

The death toll in the northern region of Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of Italy’s virus outbreak, has risen by around 360 in a day to more than 3,450, a source has told Reuters.

The number of cases in the region, which includes Italy’s financial capital Milan, has increased by around 2,590 to more than 28,370. However, a number of results were still awaiting confirmation and it was not clear if they would be added later.

Sunday’s figures represented an improvement on Saturday, when the death toll in the region rose by 546 and new cases increased by 3,251. The national death toll is due to be released later on Sunday. The tally stood at 4,825 on Saturday – the highest in the world.

Updated at 4.17pm GMT

4.10pm GMT

Spain moves to extend state of emergency

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said his government would ask parliament to extend for another 15 days until April 11 a state of emergency it imposed this month to try to curb the spread of the virus.

The nationwide state of emergency was first announced on March 14 and it bars people in the nation of around 46 million people from leaving home except for essential outings like buying food or seeking medical care.

Sanchez said the request to extend the state of emergency would be approved by his cabinet on Tuesday and he was confident the assembly would approve it.

“I know that is a drastic measure… but experts agree that it is an effective measure in the fight against coronavirus,” he told a news conference after holding talks via video conference with the heads of Spain’s regional governments.

The announcement comes after Spain announced 394 new deaths caused by the pandemic, raising to 1,720 the official death toll in Europe’s worst-hit country after Italy, a 30 percent increase over the previous day.

The number of confirmed cases of the disease rose by 3,646, or 14.6 percent, to 28,572, according to health ministry figures, straining Spain’s health care system.

Sanchez has said his country’s situation was now the most difficult since the 1936-39 civil war, and he warned that the outbreak would worsen.

“We must prepare ourselves emotionally and psychologically for very hard days ahead,” he told the nation in a televised address late on Saturday.

4.08pm GMT

French doctor dies

A French doctor has died from coronavirus, the first medic to succumb in the country, health minister Olivier Veran has said.

The minister paid tribute to all front-line medical staff and urged other workers to keep essential services running despite the nationwide lockdown. “The medical profession is making a heavy sacrifice in our country today,” Veran told LCI television.

The doctor who died was an emergency specialist working at a hospital in Compiegne, north of Paris, public television reported, citing a Facebook post by one of his children. “We’re asking citizens to continue mobilising to keep our economy working,” Veran said. “Not for the sake of economic objectives or budgets, but because a single missing link can bring down the entire production system.”

France’s death toll rose by 112 to 562 on Saturday, according to health ministry numbers, while the number of confirmed cases increased 15% to 14,459 in 24 hours.

The government may also roll out a tax-free coronavirus “attendance bonus” for people who need to be at their workplace to carry out their jobs, officials have said.

4.01pm GMT

Dubai carrier Emirates has reversed a previous announcement suspending all passenger flights, saying it is going to continue flying to 13 destinations, including the the U.S., the UK, Japan, Australia and Canada. The company said Sunday that the decision comes after receiving requests from governments and customers to support the repatriation of travellers. Hours earlier, Emirates said it was suspending all passenger flights starting Wednesday.

3.47pm GMT

Cambodia has reported 31 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, 29 of them among French tourists, bringing the total number of infections recorded in the Southeast Asian country to 84, the health ministry said in a statement.

The statement said the two Cambodians who were infected had been tour guides accompanying the tourists. All were now being kept in isolation in a hotel in the beach city of Sihanoukville, the statement said.

3.39pm GMT

The Canadian death toll from the coronavirus outbreak jumped almost 50% percent to 19 in less than a day, according to official figures released by the federal government on Sunday.

Ottawa said late on Saturday that 13 people had died from the respiratory illness caused by the virus, but by 9 a.m. ET (1300 GMT) on Sunday that number had grown to 19. The number of confirmed cases rose to 1,302 from 1,099, with a further 69 people listed as probably suffering from the highly contagious virus.

Canada has already closed its borders to all but essential travel, announced a C billion aid package for the most affected by the health crisis and is urging people to practice self-isolation.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said on Saturday that “Canadians need to understand this isn’t about two weeks of social distancing. This is about months of social distancing.”
Nova Scotia on Sunday became the latest of Canada’s 10 provinces to declare a state of emergency, closing its borders to non-residents and threatening to arrest those who did not practice self-distancing.

Premier Stephen McNeil told a news conference that despite warnings to avoid meeting in large groups, people were flocking to provincial parks and other common areas.
“We are dealing with a deadly virus and this behavior is unacceptable,” he said.

3.21pm GMT

Saudi Arabia cases pass 500

Saudi Arabia has reported a jump in coronavirus cases. Saudi Health Ministry spokesman Mohammed Abdelali said the kingdom recorded 119 new cases, raising the total number to 511, the highest to date in the Gulf Arab region.

The tally of cases in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council now stands at more than 1,700.

3.17pm GMT

José Ameal Peña was just four years old when the 1918 flu tore through his small fishing town in northern Spain, its deadly path narrated by the daily ringing of church bells.

More than a century later, Ameal Peña – believed to be Spain’s only living survivor of a pandemic described to be the deadliest in human history – has a warning as the world faces off against Covid-19: “Be careful,” he said. “I don’t want to see the same thing repeated, it claimed so many lives.”

The 1918 flu, known as the Spanish flu after the country’s press were among the first to report on it, killed between 50 and 100 million people around the world.

In Ameal Peña’s town of Luarca, it claimed some 500 lives, or a quarter of the town’s 2,000 residents. He watched from his window as a steady stream of funeral processions made their way to the local cemetery.

In autumn 1918, he became the only one out of his seven siblings to catch the flu. “I still can’t figure out how I’m here,” he told Spanish newspaper El Mundo. “When I woke up, I could barely walk. I had to crawl on my hands and knees.”

As he wrestled with a relentless fever, a local doctor prescribed vapours of boiled eucalyptus and seaweed.

In recent weeks, he’s watched anxiously as another pandemic tightens its grip on the world. Spain has emerged as one of Europe’s hardest-hit by the coronavirus, with 1,720 people killed.

“He knows exactly what is happening with the coronavirus,” his daughter Anunciata told El Mundo. “Since he lived through all that, he’s having a hard time now. He’s afraid that something similar will happen again, even though we’re living in very different times.”

While the fear unleashed by both pandemics is similar, this time the battle is unfolding against a backdrop of scientific advances, allowing the virus to be isolated, antiviral drugs to be tested and complex medical treatments to be carried out.

Across the Atlantic, another survivor of the 1918 flu, 107-year-old Joe Newman, offered his perspective. “There are those of us who say, well, this too shall go away. And it will,” the resident of Sarasota, Florida told NBC news. “But at what cost, at what expense?”

Newman urged people to lean on each other for support. “You have to be my crutch. I have to be yours. It’s been that way through every crisis we’ve had,” he said. “And then we find – when we do look back – that is what got us through it.”

3.12pm GMT

One of the world’s biggest airlines, Emirates, said it was suspending all passenger flights starting Wednesday. It’s a pivotal move that reflects the dramatic slowdown in traffic through the airline’s hub in Dubai, the world’s busiest international airport, due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus.

The state-owned carrier stressed in a statement on Sunday it will continue to operate cargo flights through its fleet of Boeing 777 freighters for the transport of essential goods, including medical supplies across the world. It also said the company would reduce salaries for the majority of its employees for three months, but will not cut jobs.

3.07pm GMT

Singapore: 23 new cases confirmed

23 new cases of the virus have been confirmed in Singapore. 18 of the cases had recently travelled to Europe, North America, South America and ASEAN countries, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in its daily update. Nine of the cases had travelled to the UK and three to the US.

Singapore confirmed its first deaths yesterday. A 75-year-old Singaporean woman and 64-year-old Indonesian man.

Updated at 3.10pm GMT

2.59pm GMT

During his weekly Sunday blessing, Pope Francis urged all Christians to join in reciting the Our Father prayer on Wednesday at noon. “To the virus pandemic, we want to respond with the universality of prayer, of compassion, of tenderness”, the pope said.

Francis, who began streaming his audiences online earlier this month due to virus concerns, said he would also lead a global blessing to an empty St. Peters Square on Friday. The Urbi et Orbi, blessing is normally reserved for Christmas Day and Easter.

2.54pm GMT

Waitrose and John Lewis have outlined measures that will be in place from tomorrow to support NHS workers:

  • All Waitrose shops will protect a proportion of deliveries of ‘hard to find’ and essential stock exclusively for NHS workers to ensure they have better opportunity to access basic shopping items at all times of the day.A proportion of deliveries
  • NHS staff will receive priority checkout treatment in all Waitrose supermarkets either through a dedicated till or moved to the front of the queue
  • John Lewis is donating comfort items and Easter gift food to local hospitals, to support workers

Berangere Michel, Executive Director for Customer Service at the John Lewis Partnership, said: “Through these steps we want to recognise the tireless work of NHS staff, supporting us all through these unprecedented circumstances. We hope these measures make their life a little easier; our Partners are keen to do something to help, and we are offering this with sincere thanks from us all.”

These new measures follow steps outlined by the John Lewis Partnership earlier this week to support customers, including the launch of a £1million Community Support Fund to help local communities along with a protected shopping hour for the elderly and vulnerable.

Many Waitrose shops have already been using their community funds to assemble care packages of essential items for vulnerable or elderly people in the local community.

2.44pm GMT

Greece’s centre right government is hours away from announcing further restrictive measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus with media reports saying the latest clampdown on movement will likely take the form of a curfew. starting either tonight or tomorrow morning. News sites reported that prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected to announce the emergency measure in a TV address at 6pm local time. The step follows alarm at the number of citizens still flouting regulations enforced as part of gradual lockdown to halt transmissions of the virus.

On Saturday Greeks could be seen flocking to beaches along the Athenian riviera despite repeated government entreaties for people to remain at home. A mass exodus of Greeks from Athens, and other urban areas, to villages in the countryside has also caused consternation. As of Saturday afternoon, when the latest health ministry figures were announced, authorities had confirmed 530 cases of coronavirus and 13 fatalities – with the exception of one, all men.

Mitsotakis and other officials have repeatedly warned that the coming weeks are critical in containing the disease. Addressing reporters last night, the deputy civil protection minister Nikos Hardalias felt fit to remind Greeks that Italy, the country worst hit in Europe by Covid-19, had recorded the same number of coronavirus cases and deaths 24 days ago.

Officials fear that Greece’s health system – savaged by years of budget cuts during the country’s long-running debt crisis – is far from ready to deal with a sudden surge in numbers requiring immediate hospitalisation. That, and the country’s proximity to Italy, played a central role in the government taking a tough stance from the outset announcing measures that included the closure of schools early on.

Updated at 3.36pm GMT

2.38pm GMT

Afghanistan announces first coronavirus death

Afghanistan has announced its first Coronavirus death. The Health Ministry confirmed that the patient, who was 40 years old, died three days ago in northern Balkh province and the result of his coronavirus test arrived today.

Wahidullah Mayar, spokesman for the Health Ministry said the body was transferred to a Taliban controlled area [by his relatives] and buried there.

Another suspected patient died today in western Herat province. The coronavirus test result will arrive tomorrow. Herat neighbours Iran and is the most affected city with 18 positive cases so far.

Afghanistan has reported 34 coronavirus cases so far, 10 in last 24 hours. Testing remains low and experts fear the full extent of the spread is not known. With as many as 15,000 people arriving daily from Iran, one of the worst-hit countries, Afghanistan remains vulnerable to the spread.

Updated at 3.10pm GMT

2.28pm GMT

Fox News reports that the New York City Police Department is dealing with a sudden spike in coronavirus cases. According to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, over 50 police officers have tested positive for the virus, but only one has been hospitalised. The 1st Precinct in Manhattan is the hardest hit, with 31 officers (17 percent of the workforce) calling in sick, forcing the NYPD to call the Movie and Television Unit to fill in.

The police union says that the NYPD has failed to provide adequate protective equipment for officers or cleaning supplies.

2.12pm GMT

In the space of less than 24 hours on Sunday, India amped up its drastic measures to try and stop the spread of coronavirus, as the number of cases rose to 341 and the death toll reached seven.

From 7am to 9pm, a nationwide “people’s curfew” was imposed to clear the streets. It was then announced that all train operations in India would be suspended until at least 31 March, a move which will impact the 23 million passengers who rely on India’s railways every day.

The capital city of Delhi, which has now reported six cases of coronavirus which were locally transmitted, will also be locked down from 6am on Monday until at least 31 March, with the state borders sealed, all public transport and non-essential businesses closed and taxis and rickshaws ordered off the roads.

Lockdowns were imposed in 75 districts across the country and in Goa the curfew was extended until Wednesday.

2.09pm GMT

First two cases confirmed in Gaza

The first two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the Gaza Strip last night in individuals who had come from Pakistan. An outbreak could wreak havoc on the Palestinian territory, which is home to over 2 million people, many living in cramped cities and refugee camps. There are similar concerns about a catastrophe if the virus turns up in war-torn Syria, Libya or Yemen.

Abdelnasser Soboh, director of the World Health Organization’s Gaza office, said the territory only has 62 ventilators, with all but 15 already in use. He estimates the territory needs 50 to 100 more to address an outbreak.

With its current capacity, he estimated Gaza’s hospitals can handle the first 100 cases if they come in gradually. If there is a spread to hundreds, this will cause a challenge to the health care system,” he said.

Hundreds of Gazans have returned home in the past two weeks, but only 92 people have been examined, highlighting the territory’s limited testing capacity. More than 1,270 people have been quarantined at hospitals, hotels and schools after crossing into Gaza from Israel and Egypt, according to the Health Ministry.

Updated at 3.10pm GMT

1.46pm GMT

The coronavirus economic relief bill being finalised in the US Congress will include a one-time ,000 payment for families and allow the Federal Reserve to leverage up to trillion of liquidity to support the nation’s economy, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said today.

Mnuchin, speaking in an interview on the “Fox News Sunday” television program, said the additional liquidity measures for the U.S. central bank aims to help a broad base of U.S. businesses to get through next 90 to 120 days.

1.39pm GMT

43 more deaths in the Netherlands

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Netherlands rose by 573, or nearly 16%, to 4,204, Dutch health authorities said in a daily update on Sunday.

The death toll in the Netherlands rose by 43 to 179, with victims aged between 57 and 97.

1.33pm GMT

The Chinese billionaire founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba has sent coronavirus supplies to Africa. Jack Ma sent a cargo flight from Guangzhou in China containing more than 6m medical items, which arrived today in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The supplies will be distributed to African countries in need of resources to battle the virus.

According to Ethiopian officials and the Jack Ma Foundation, the plane carried 5.4m face masks, 1.08m testing kits, 40,000 sets of protective clothing and 60,000 protective face shields. Ma has sent similar shipments of medical supplies to countries in Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America.

The virus has been slow to reach Africa but has now spread to at least 42 of the continent’s 54 countries.

Updated at 1.43pm GMT

1.15pm GMT

Independent.ie has reported that hospitals in Ireland are braced for a new wave of cases after at least 14 patients in an Irish care home in Leinster tested positive for the virus. Covid-19 is believed to have been transmitted to residents via a health worker.

Updated at 1.42pm GMT

1.03pm GMT

The Welsh government has just tweeted reminding everyone to avoid all but essential travel and suggesting stronger measures will be brought in if people ignore the advice.

1.00pm GMT

We’ve now got a live blog up and running focusing on UK coronavirus developments. Head over here to check it out. Meanwhile I’ll be continuing to bring you the major headlines and updates from around the world.

Updated at 1.05pm GMT

12.46pm GMT

Boris Johnson has tweeted asking everyone to stay at home and not visit vulnerable mums in person this Mother’s Day.

Updated at 1.04pm GMT

12.41pm GMT

Paul Reid, Ireland’s top health service official, has said huge orders have been placed for coronavirus testing equipment and protective gear for staff. A total of 11m masks, 1m face shields and 1m goggles for workers are on order. Another 400,000 gowns and suits are also being purchased.

Almost 40,000 sample test kits are being distributed. Another 20,000 will be in Ireland by Wednesday, the health service said. The Irish Republic is at an advanced stage of negotiations with China to secure a further 100,000 and good progress is being made, it said.

The worldwide nature of the coronavirus pandemic means there is a lot of competition to secure supplies. On Saturday night, 177 people were in Irish hospitals with coronavirus, up from 151 on Saturday morning. Ireland usually spends €15m a year on personal protective equipment, the health service said. Its bill since January has already hit €60m.

Updated at 12.57pm GMT

12.27pm GMT

Iran’s supreme leader blames US for sending coronavirus to Iran

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the US was responsible for sending coronavirus to Iran, therefore making it impossible to accept any American help to fight the virus there. Speaking on the occasion of the New Year and Eid al-Mab’ath, the 80-year-old said “you Americans are accused of engineering coronavirus”, adding: “I do not know how true this claim is, but as long as the accusation stands, which sensible person would trust you to accept your offer of help.

“Possibly your (offered) medicine is a way to spread the virus more,” he said. “Or if you send therapists and doctors, maybe so they want to see the effect of the poison in Iranian society, so they can complete their information. It is said that part of the virus was produced against the Iranian people.”

His tone contradicted that of the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, who had the day before sent a heartfelt plea to the American public to set aside their differences with Iran and work together to fight the virus, including by the US suspending economic sanctions on Iran.

The supreme leader was immediately challenged by Iranian reformist politicians such as Mahmoud Sadeghi to produce evidence to back his claim.

Khamenei’s controversial belief in an American biological conspiracy came as the Iranian health ministry said the new infections in Iran in the past 24 hours had reached 1,865, with a further 129 deaths. The official figures show the number of deaths by day stabilising.

The total number of infected people had reached 21,638. The health ministry spokesman said 7,913 people had recovered.

The official figures have been widely challenged on the basis that the recording of the number of deaths includes only those who died after being tested for the disease. The World Health Organization has said the figure may be only a fifth of the true number who have died. The official death toll shows no obvious pattern since for the last three days it has risen only from 220 to 240, yet the infections are rising.

Iran also continued to send out contradictory messages about whether it could overcome the virus without sanctions being lifted. The letter from the president underlined the need for US sanctions being lifted. Khamenei has insisted the country can survive independently.

The US state department hit back at claims it was preventing medicines reaching Iran, saying: “Dear Iranians, as your government will not tell you the truth, we say: on March 2, Iran, which instead of acting like any normal government around the world, refuses to make your economic system transparent. The reason the regime is hiding its economy is because it is corrupt.”

In Tehran province the deputy mayor, Hamid Reza Goudarzi, after weeks of controversy has announced that all shops but essential food shops and pharmacies must close, and those that refuse to abide by the instructions will be punished.

The International Monetary Fund has still not responded to an Iranian request for a bn loan to help fight the virus.

Qom News, an agency covering Qom, one of the centres of the disease, reported on Sunday: “In every house black cloth hangs from the walls of houses and the sound of crying in mourning houses resounds. Stay at home or else you’re the next person.”

Updated at 12.53pm GMT

12.15pm GMT

Spain: death toll climbs to 1,720

The death toll in Spain has climbed to 1,720 – with 394 lives claimed in the past day – as the country’s prime minister warned that the “worst is yet to come” and announced plans to extend the country’s near-total lockdown until the 12 of April.

Across Spain, the number of confirmed cases sits at 28,572, according to the latest data from the health ministry.

In the span of a few weeks, Spain has emerged as one of the hardest-hit countries in the global pandemic. After the first full week of near-total lockdown, the country’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, reportedly told regional leaders he would aim to get parliamentary approval to extend the emergency measures for another 15 days.

The extension comes after Sánchez warned that the toughest days of the crisis still lie ahead.

“Unfortunately, the worst is to come,” Pedro Sánchez said on Saturday. “We have yet to feel the impact of the hardest, most damaging wave, one that will test the limits of our moral and material capacity, as well as our spirit as a society.”

A cacophony of sound preceded his address to the nation, as some banged pots and pans to show their dissatisfaction with how his government has managed the crisis.

Healthcare workers on the frontlines have described a healthcare system pushed to the brink, with intensive care patients outstripping capacity in some hospitals and workers forced to use garbage bags as hospital gowns amid a shortage of protective gear. “We’re at war,” one doctor at Madrid’s La Paz Hospital told the Guardian.

The government said it had distributed more than million masks and was working on a plan to domestically produce protective gear. As the call for expanded testing grows, Sánchez said the government had acquired more than 640,000 tests and had already begun handing them out.

On Sunday, paramedics in Madrid began transferring patients to a field hospital set up in Madrid’s main exhibition hall, in a bid to relieve pressure on the city’s most overwhelmed hospitals. The makeshift hospital, mounted in the past days by the military, can be expanded to hold as many as 5,500 patients.

Updated at 12.43pm GMT

12.09pm GMT

Croatia’s capital Zagreb was shaken by a series of earthquakes this morning that brought most of the population out onto the streets, just as social distancing regulations to prevent the spread of coronavirus had gone into place. The ill-timed quakes, the largest of which measured 5.3 on the Richter scale, have left one child in critical condition and damaged buildings across Zagreb, including the spire of the city’s main cathedral. The epicentre was about four miles north of Zagreb.

Photographs showed damage to a hospital in the capital, just as the country’s health system was gearing up for a potential surge in coronavirus cases. Mothers cradled their newborns on the street as a maternity ward was evacuated.

Croatian authorities on Saturday advised residents to stay off the streets, cut most public transport and demanded people pay heed to social distancing recommendations. The country has recorded 206 cases of coronavirus so far and one death.

Croatia’s interior minister Davor Božinović said on Sunday that the army was helping to clear up the rubble in Zagreb. He said authorities were working to manage both crises, but said the coronavirus was a more serious threat to the country than the earthquake. He urged those on the streets due to the earthquake to maintain social distancing norms.

12.02pm GMT

A Tesco in Lewes that opened one hour early for NHS workers at 9am this morning reportedly let others in because of long queues outside and did not open the tills until 10am, meaning that shoppers were packed together in close quarters.

11.55am GMT

Summary

  • The number of confirmed coronavirus deaths in Spain has risen by almost 400, or 30%, in 24 hours, as the government is reported to be extending its state of emergency by another 15 days. As well as 394 new deaths, the country reported the number of confirmed cases has risen by 3,646 (15%) from 24,926 to 28,572.
  • In Iran, the death toll rose has risen by 129 (8%) to 1,685 over the past day, and the number of cases has risen by 1,028 (5%) to 21,638.
  • In Germany, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has risen by 1,948 (12%) to 18,610, and the number of deaths has increased by nine (20%) to 55, the country’s public health institute said.
  • Indonesia has confirmed 10 new deaths from Covid-19 and 64 new cases, taking the respective totals to 48 and 514. On Saturday, Indonesia reported six deaths and 81 new cases.The south-east Asian country has turned its athletes village built for the 2018 Asian Games into an emergency hospital.
  • The number of deaths in Wales of patients who tested positive for coronavirus has more than doubled, from five to 12, the chief medical officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, said.
  • Colombia, Guam Kosovo and Romania each reported their first death, with the fatality in Guam, the first in the Pacific region. Palestinian officials reported the first two cases in the Gaza strip.
  • The UK government has refused to dismiss the idea of an Italian-style lockdown if needed to curb the further spread of the virus, amid reports that many people were out enjoying the weather on Saturday and not practising social distancing. The government is to write to 1.5m people perceived as vulnerable due to underlying health conditions, urging them to stay indoors for 12 weeks.
  • A group of almost 4,000 NHS workers in the UK have pleaded with the prime minister, Boris Johnson, to ensure they have adequate protective equipment to deal with the coronavirus crisis.In an open letter to The Sunday Times, the medics have called on Johnson to “protect the lives of the life-savers” and resolve the “unacceptable” shortage of protective equipment.
  • The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has announced wide ranging restrictions on businesses but has said schools will remain open. Among those affected will be clubs, hotels, pubs, entertainment venues, indoor supporting venues and places of worship. Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway only.
  • The Russian military is sending medical help to Italy from today, including mobile disinfection vehicles and medical specialists.
  • Malaysia has sent the army to the streets to enforce restrictions which people appear to be defying. The country has one of the highest rates of infection in Southeast Asia.
  • China is diverting all Beijing-bound international flights to other airports for checks before allowing them to continue.
  • Singapore has banned the entry and transit of all foreigners, except those with work permits in essential services.
  • Hawaii has become the first US state to require 14 days quarantine for all arrivals.
  • India has imposed a curfew from 7am to 9pm Delhi time.
  • The Italian PM ordered businesses to close all operations.
  • More than 50,000 people queued to see the Olympic flame in northeast Japan. Meanwhile Olympic officials are reportedly workshopping delaying the games despite the Japanese government’s insistence it go ahead.

Updated at 11.58am GMT

11.53am GMT

Employers in Scotland have been urged to give paid leave to all members of staff who volunteer as special constables to help Police Scotland cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

The force said it faced “unprecedented challenges to maintain policing while managing rising levels of sickness and self-isolation among officers and staff.”

It has asked special constables, who have the same powers as regular police officers, to increase their hours volunteering over the next three months and written to their employers asking them to support them.

Police Scotland launched a new recruitment campaign on 3 February this year after a sharp decline in special constable numbers, partly because 500 specials became full time officers.

Figures given to BBC Scotland after a freedom of information request showed a 62% fall since the unitary force was formed in 2013, down from 1,391 that year to 517 in 2019.

Malcolm Graham, a Police Scotland deputy chief constable, said in a statement: “This is an extraordinary moment and one that requires a collective response. It is a moment when the ethos of the Special Constabulary – supporting Scottish communities and local policing – has never been more relevant.

“The coronavirus pandemic is presenting an unprecedented and dynamic set of challenges and, to support health professionals and maximise public safety, the policing response is crucial.

“The coming weeks and months will be demanding and there will be significant additional duties that we are required to discharge during this critical period. To support our overall response, we would like to include our valued special constables in our resourcing plans.”

11.33am GMT

Tourists are being urged to stay at home and not visit some of the remote communities in the Scottish Highlands in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. Scotland’s Tourism Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, said: “My advice to everybody is stay where you are. Do not travel to the Highlands and Islands.”

The pleas came as the organisation that represents tourism businesses along the A830 road, which connects Fort William with Mallaig, also urged visitors to stay away. The Road To The Isles group includes 100 accommodation and visitor-based businesses on the scenic route, which takes in Glenfinnan, Lochailort, Roshven, Arisaig, Morar, Mallaig and the Small Isles of Eigg, Muck, Rum, Canna and the Knoydart peninsula.
The area already has an ageing population, with just one doctor and ambulance to cover it, and the nearest hospital is 100 miles away.

Thanks to Haroon for covering the blog this morning. This is Hannah Mays signing on.

Updated at 11.35am GMT

11.17am GMT

An 82-year old man who died in hospital in Kosovo on Sunday is the country’s first victim of the coronavirus, the Kosovo Public Health Institute said in a statement.

“Patient already had chronic illness, cardio and pulmonary,” the institute said, according to Reuters.

Kosovo, a country of 2 million people, has registered 31 cases of people infected with coronavirus.

This is my last post, I am now handing over to my colleague Hannah Mays.

11.07am GMT

Almost 400 new deaths in Spain

The number of deaths linked to Covid-19 in Spain has risen by almost 400 – 30% – to 1,720 in the last day, Spanish media are reporting.

As well as the 394 deaths, the number of confirmed cases has reportedly risen by 3,646 (15%) from 24,926 to 28,572.

The government is reportedly extending the 15-day state of emergency imposed on 14 March by another 15 days.

Updated at 11.12am GMT

10.59am GMT

Croatia’s capital Zagreb was shaken by a series of earthquakes this morning that brought most of the population out onto the streets, just as social distancing regulations to prevent the spread of coronavirus had gone into place.

The ill-timed quakes, the largest of which measured 5.3 on the Richter scale, have left one child in critical condition and damaged buildings across Zagreb, including the spire of the city’s main cathedral. The epicentre was about four miles north of Zagreb.

Photographs showed damage to a hospital in the capital, just as the country’s health system was gearing up for a potential surge in coronavirus cases. Mothers cradled their newborns on the street as a maternity ward was evacuated.

Croatian authorities on Saturday advised residents to stay off the streets, cut most public transport and demanded people pay heed to social distancing recommendations. The country has recorded 206 cases of coronavirus so far and one death.

Croatia’s interior minister Davor Božinović said on Sunday that the army was helping to clear up the rubble in Zagreb. He said authorities were working to manage both crises, but said the coronavirus was a more serious threat to the country than the earthquake. He urged those on the streets due to the earthquake to maintain social distancing norms.

A person walks past rubbles lying on a street after a 5.3-magnitude earthquake that hit near Zagreb, Croatia
A person walks past rubbles lying on a street after a 5.3-magnitude earthquake that hit near Zagreb, Croatia Photograph: Antonio Bat/EPA

Updated at 11.20am GMT

10.48am GMT

Albania has said it will suspend all commercial flights to and from the country from midnight, allowing only flag carrier Air Albania to fly to Turkey and operate humanitarian flights, the government and airport operator said.

The government had already cut all air and sea links with Italy, now the worst-hit country and home to 400,000 Albanians, after its first coronavirus case arrived from Italy a fortnight ago along with 120,000 returning Albanians.

There have been 76 coronavirus cases in Albania and two deaths.

10.37am GMT

We have had lots of people get in touch about lack of social distancing in the UK, with people going out in the sunny weather.

A reader from the Lake District – a popular holiday destination in north-west England – did not want to be named but said:

People are escaping to the countryside for days out as normal.

The National Trust shut all its properties, but kept the outdoor places open for people to exercise. They had to reverse this decision overnight as thousands of tourists saw the sunny weather as an opportunity to have a day out. Many of the properties where busier that a normal bank holiday weekend. This is just not acceptable.

The rural areas just can’t cope with this kinds of influx of visitors at this time. Our healthcare system in the Lakes is only meant for the 500,000 permanent residents. It’s already being overwhelmed.

The local community is trying its best to get the message across that we aren’t welcoming visitors at the moment, but it just doesn’t seem to be working. We are overrun. Car parks have turned into campsites, and our small local co-ops are now empty as they can’t keep up with demand from tourists. All the holiday cottages and second homes are full.

Updated at 10.52am GMT

10.24am GMT

Australia announces restrictions on businesses

The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has announced restrictions on businesses but has said schools will remain open. In a press conference, which is ongoing – you can follow it on our dedicated Australia live blog – he said that Australians had been disregarding advice on social distancing. In response, he announced that from tomorrow at midday, the following businesses will be closed or restricted in their trade:

  • Registered and licensed clubs
  • Licensed premises in hotels and pubs.
  • Entertainment venues and cinemas, casinos and nightclubs.
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restrict to takeaway only.
  • Indoor sporting venues.
  • Places of worship.
  • Enclosed spaces for funerals and things of that nature will have to follow the strict four square metre rule which will be enforced.

10.17am GMT

Hong Kong has reported 44 more cases confirmed over the past 24 hours, the city’s second highest daily increase to date, RTHK reports.

The highest daily toll to date was the 48 confirmed on Friday. The total number of confirmed cases in Hong Kong now stands at 317.

Out of the 44 new cases, 29 had recently come back to Hong Kong from abroad, including nine students who had just returned to Hong Kong, RTHK says.

10.09am GMT

NHS nurses are being made to use various items they can find – including bin bags – in the hospital to help protect themselves, with many using plastic aprons over their head, buying wellies or wrapping clinical waste bags around their feet.

One nurse, who did not wish to be named, said:

Widespread nurses are making their own PPE [personal protective equipment]. I know friends I trained with doing the same. We have to protect ourselves, some of us have children and babies. We are trying to help people but have to protect families. I don’t know why we are not getting PPE.

She added:

I don’t think it’s about money but management. Some third world countries are dealing properly with this pandemic but we are not. We are doing our best – really doing our best but in terms of the equipment needed to help patients they are failing. Ventilators, for example. If we have unwell patients but no ITU [intensive treatment unit] capacity we can’t do much.

Nurses in the Royal Free hospital in north London have been tying clinical waste bags around their legs, the Guardian has been told. In North Middlesex hospital they have been tying plastic aprons around their heads.

10.07am GMT

Seven more deaths in Wales

A further seven patients in Wales who tested positive for coronavirus have died, bringing the total to 12, the chief medical officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, has said.

9.54am GMT

Iran cases jump to 21,638, with 129 more deaths

Iran has also issued its latest figures, which show the death toll has risen to 1,685, an increase of 129 in 24 hours, and the number of cases has risen by 1,028 to 21,638.

Updated at 9.56am GMT

9.49am GMT

German infections rise by 1,948 to 18,610 as nine more people die

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has risen by 1,948 to 18,610, and the number of deaths has increased by nine to 55, the country’s public health institute has said.

Updated at 9.56am GMT

9.35am GMT

Covid-19 could pose a threat to Africa’s endangered mountain gorilla, conservationists have warned. From AP:

Congo’s Virunga National Park, home to about a third of the world’s mountain gorillas, is barring visitors until 1 June, citing advice from scientific experts indicating that primates, including mountain gorillas, are likely susceptible to complications arising from the Covid-19 virus.

Neighboring Rwanda also is temporarily shutting down tourism and research activities in three national parks that are home to primates such as gorillas and chimpanzees.

Mountain gorillas are prone to some respiratory illnesses that afflict humans. A common cold can kill a gorilla, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, one reason why tourists tracking gorillas are not normally permitted to get too close.

Paula Kahumbu, chief executive of the Kenya-based conservation group WildlifeDirect, told The Associated Press that every possible effort must be made to protect mountain gorillas because so few are left in the wild. She said:

We know that gorillas are very sensitive to human diseases. If anyone has a cold or a flu they are not allowed to go and see the gorillas. With coronavirus having such a long time of no symptoms in some cases, it means that we could actually put those gorillas at risk.

Even existing measures may not be enough to protect them.

A baby mountain gorilla clings to the back of its mother, on Mount Bisoke volcano in Volcanoes National Park, northern Rwanda.
A baby mountain gorilla clings to the back of its mother, on Mount Bisoke volcano in Volcanoes National Park, northern Rwanda. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP

9.19am GMT

A UK pet shop chain, Pets At Home, has been criticised for claiming key worker status for its staff. Schools in the UK have closed but children of those classified as key workers are still allowed to attend. A letter from Pets At Home tells schools to contact their legal department in case of questions.

The general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers has responded:

9.03am GMT

The UK communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, has reiterated government warnings for people to maintain social distancing, refusing to dismiss the idea of an Italian-style lockdown if needed to curb the further spread of the virus. He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday:

We want to continue in a free society. But this isn’t a game, people need to follow the advice.

Discussing a plan announced overnight to write to 1.5m people perceived as vulnerable due to underlying health conditions, urging them to stay indoors for 12 weeks, with provision for care packages to be sent to them, Jenrick said these people could remain with other household members, saying he is “not expecting families to be broken up”.

Jenrick said that while people should stay healthy and go out for exercise, he said they should not pack together in parks, and stay physically apart from people

Failure to follow the advice could see the NHS overwhelmed, he warned, even with measures to increase critical care capacity:

We’re doing all the things we can, but let’s be clear, the numbers are rising, we need to follow the advice of healthcare professions.

8.57am GMT

Indonesia has confirmed 10 new deaths from Covid-19 and 64 new cases, taking the respective totals to 48 and 514.

On Saturday, Indonesia reported six deaths and 81 new cases.

The south-east Asian country has turned its athletes village built for the 2018 Asian Games into an emergency hospital with a capacity to hold more than 4,000 patients, it announced earlier today.

An Indonesian Red Cross Society employee sprays disinfectant at the Kemayoran Athletes Village
An Indonesian Red Cross Society employee sprays disinfectant at the Kemayoran Athletes Village Photograph: Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters

8.50am GMT

A group of almost 4,000 NHS workers in the UK have pleaded with the prime minister, Boris Johnson, to ensure they have adequate protective equipment to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

In an open letter to The Sunday Times, the medics have called on Johnson to “protect the lives of the life-savers” and resolve the “unacceptable” shortage of protective equipment.

The group said many medical workers are “putting their lives on the line every day” by treating coronavirus patients without appropriate protection, and they called on the prime minister to ensure an adequate supply of masks, safety glasses, gloves, aprons and protective suits.

The letter, signed by 3,963 front-line NHS staff, reads:

Front-line doctors have been telling us for weeks that they do not feel safe at work.

Intensive care doctors and anaesthetists have told us they have been carrying out the highest-risk procedure, putting a patient on a ventilator, with masks that expired in 2015.

The letter adds that paediatricians have warned their stocks of protective glasses would run out in 48 hours, including in special-care baby units.

One acute care worker reported one NHS trust had run out of its stock of masks last weekend, the letter said. It continued:

GPs have told us they feel abandoned; many have been left without any protection for weeks and do not even have simple masks to protect them if a patient comes in with symptoms of Covid-19.

The group also said ambulance workers had been arriving for shifts to find no hand sanitiser, masks or wipes were available.

8.37am GMT

Iran’s supreme leader has today refused US humanitarian assistance to fight the new coronavirus, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory that the virus could be man-made by America.

Washington has offered to help Iran while refusing to lift crushing sanctions blocking the country from selling its crude oil and accessing international financial markets.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said:

Possibly your (offered) medicine is a way to spread the virus more, Khamenei said. Or if you send therapists and doctors, maybe he wants to see the effect of the poison, since it is said that part of the virus is built for Iran.

There is no scientific proof offered anywhere in the world to support Khamenei’s comments. Earlier this month, Chinese government spokesman Lijian Zhao tweeted that it might be US army who brought the epidemic – described by Donald Trump as the Chinese virus – to Wuhan.

Khamenei made the comments in a speech in Tehran broadcast live across Iran marking Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

Iran has over 20,600 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus amid 1,556 reported deaths.

8.22am GMT

Romania confirms first death from coronavirus

Romania has today confirmed its first death in the due to coronavirus, Reuters reports.

The deceased was a 67-year-old man who had been suffering from terminal cancer, the government said. He was confirmed to be infected with coronavirus on 18 March and was being treated in a hospital in the southern Romanian city of Craiova.

Romania, which has recorded 367 cases of coronavirus to date, declared a state of emergency on 16 March.

Updated at 8.24am GMT

8.21am GMT

This video is of Piccadilly in London’s West End, one of the capital’s busiest districts, which would usually be packed full of revellers and tourists on a Saturday night.

8.13am GMT

Hello, this is Haroon taking over from Helen. If you want to get in touch you can contact me via the following channels:

Twitter: @Haroon_Siddique

Email: haroon[dot]siddique[at]theguardian[dot]com

Due to the volume of messages we receive I may not be able to reply to or acknowledge each one but thank you in advance.

8.06am GMT

The latest developments at a glance

That’s all from me for now. I’ll leave you in the capable hands of my colleague Haroon Siddique. Take care.

  • The Russian military will send medical help to Italy from today, including mobile disinfection vehicles and medical specialists.
  • Malaysia has sent the army to the streets to enforce restrictions which people appear to be defying. The country has one of the highest rates of infection in Southeast Asia.
  • China is diverting all Beijing-bound international flights to other airports for checks before allowing them to continue.
  • Singapore has banned the entry and transit of all foreigners, except those with work permits in essential services.
  • Hawaii became the first US state to require 14 days quarantine for all arrivals.
  • Multiple Australian states will effectively close borders, requiring 14 days quarantine for all arrivals from Tuesday.
  • NSW, the ACT and Victoria have ordered the shutdown of non-essential services from tomorrow.
  • India has announced a curfew from 7am to 9pm Delhi time.
  • The Italian PM ordered businesses to close all operations.
  • More than 50,000 people queued to see the Olympic flame in northeast Japan. Meanwhile Olympic officials are reportedly workshopping delaying the games despite the Japanese government’s insistence it go ahead.
  • UK military planners have been drafted in to help feed vulnerable people.
  • Italy reported 793 deaths in a single day, and 6557 new cases
  • Thailand has reported 188 new cases on Saturday.
  • Australia – 276
  • South Korea – 98
  • Indonesia – 81
  • Mexico – 48
  • Philippines – 73
  • Afghanistan – 10
  • Mainland China – 46, including the first domestic case in four days.
  • Argentina – 67, with the security minister not ruling out declaring a state of siege.
  • Palestinian health officials have reported the first two cases in the Gaza Strip.
  • The Caribbean region has surpassed 400 cases.
  • Colombia recorded its first death.
  • Guam reported the first death in the Pacific region.
  • Bolivia has postponed its presidential elections.
  • Former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz has died of Covid-19.

Updated at 8.22am GMT

7.58am GMT

Indonesia has turned its “Athlete’s Village” built for the 2018 Asian Games into an emergency hospital with a capacity to hold more than 4,000 patients, authorities said on Sunday, as coronavirus cases and deaths in the country rose.

Four out of 10 towers in the Athlete’s Village, located in the country’s capital city, have been converted into a medical facility that would house more than 7,000 people, including a coronavirus task force, medical staff and up to 4,208 patients.

“The ministry of state-owned enterprises will provide supplies for the emergency hospital to handle COVID-19, be it healthcare equipment, medicine, personal protection gear and masks,” the minister of state-owned enterprises, Erick Thohir, said in a statement.

On Saturday, Indonesia confirmed 81 new cases and 6 more deaths due to the virus, bringing the total number of cases to 450 and deaths to 38. Indonesia has the highest coronavirus death toll in Southeast Asia.

7.21am GMT

From Reuters: Malaysia has deployed the army to enforce a two-week curb on travel in a country that has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia, most of them linked to a mass religious gathering.

The country has so far reported nine deaths and 1,183 infections. Southeast Asia has recorded a total of more than 3,200 positive cases, with the other big centres being Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines.

Malaysia called in the army after some people continued to defy the restrictions that came into force on Wednesday, the defence minister said in a briefing after the deployment started at noon.

“Even though police have said 90% compliance now, 10% is not a small number,” Ismail Sabri Yaakob said.

“Among the things that will be done jointly by the police and army include road blocks. Likewise for patrols in urban and rural areas, maintaining security at hospitals, managing areas that are congested and may not abide by the order such as markets.”

Soldiers in face masks maintain a checkpoint in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Sunday, March 22, 2020. Malaysian government issued a movement order to the public starting from March 18 until March 31 to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
Soldiers in face masks maintain a checkpoint in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Sunday, March 22, 2020. Malaysian government issued a movement order to the public starting from March 18 until March 31 to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. Photograph: Vincent Thian/AP

A four-day Islamic gathering held at a mosque near the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur is connected to 60% of all the cases in the country, whose tally is only behind those of China and South Korea in Asia.

Worshippers who attended the event are cooperating with authorities, an organiser said in a statement, after the government said on Thursday that it had yet to trace 4,000 of the 14,500 Malaysian residents who attended.

The health ministry said on Saturday it expected the number of cases to spike next week as it tried to track down unscreened participants of the Feb. 27-March 1 congregation.

“After hearing reports of thousands or participants yet to be screened, many had returned to their district health departments or hospitals repeatedly until their names and details were recorded,” Abdullah Cheong, a leader of the event’s organising team, said on Saturday.

“We are prepared and have given our full commitment to help the authorities deal with the pandemic.”

He also said 12,500 people attended the gathering, including foreigners and 200 Rohingya refugees. The government has put the number at 16,000.

7.11am GMT

6.58am GMT

Afghanistan reports 10 new cases of people with Covid-19

From my colleague Akhtar Mohammad Makoii in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has reported 10 new coronavirus cases in last 24 hours raising the total cases to 34.

Two foreign diplomats are included. The health ministry said in a press conference in Kabul that the diplomats were infected by the coronavirus while abroad. They were not identified publicly.

He also asked authorities to quarantine the western city of Herat, which neighbours Iran and is the most affected city in the country. 18 of the 34 cases were found in Herat, and concerns are high, with thousands of Afghans crossing the border each day from Iran.

6.31am GMT

The Russian military will start sending medical help to Italy from Sunday in order to help it battle the new coronavirus after receiving an order from President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Putin spoke to Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Saturday, the Kremlin said, saying the Russian leader had offered his support and help in the form of mobile disinfection vehicles and specialists to help the worst hit Italian regions.

Italy recorded a jump in deaths from coronavirus of almost 800 on Saturday, taking the toll in the world’s hardest-hit country to almost 5,000.

The Russian Defence Ministry said military transport planes would deliver eight mobile brigades of military medics, special disinfection vehicles, and other medical equipment to Italy starting from Sunday.

Russia itself has reported 306 cases of the virus, most of them in Moscow, and one coronavirus-related death.

6.19am GMT

China’s aviation regulator said on Sunday that all international flights due to arrive in Beijing would be diverted to other airports as their first port of entry beginning on Monday, as the country steps up measures to battle the coronavirus.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said incoming international flights to Beijing would land at one of 12 other designated airports, where passengers would be screened. Passengers who were cleared would then be permitted to reboard the plane, which would take them on to Beijing, it said.

6.06am GMT

More than 50,000 people queued to see the Olympic flame in northeastern Japan on Saturday.

Honestly.

Some people stood in the 500m queue for hours, according to local media.

The flame arrived in Japan to a scaled-down welcoming ceremony on Friday as doubts grew over whether the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will go ahead on schedule as the deadly virus causes chaos around the world.

It was displayed at Sendai station in Miyagi, chosen as part of the “Recovery Olympics” to showcase the region’s revival after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

The pandemic has already shredded the global sports calendar, with top sports leagues suspended and major tournaments postponed.

People queue as they try to watch the Olympic cauldron during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Flame of Recovery tour at Sendai StationPeople wearing protective face masks following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), queue as they try to watch the Olympic cauldron during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Flame of Recovery tour at Sendai Station, Miyagi prefecture, Japan March 21, 2020, in this photo taken by Kyodo.
People queue as they try to watch the Olympic cauldron during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Flame of Recovery tour at Sendai Station
People wearing protective face masks following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), queue as they try to watch the Olympic cauldron during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Flame of Recovery tour at Sendai Station, Miyagi prefecture, Japan March 21, 2020, in this photo taken by Kyodo.
Photograph: KYODO/Reuters

5.56am GMT

A brilliant visualisation of how and why isolation and distancing is so important to stop people dying.

5.42am GMT

Another Australian state is effectively closing its borders by requiring all entrants to undergo 14 days quarantine.

The Western Australian border will close at 1.30pm Tuesday, at the same time as South Australia and the Northern Territory. The WA police commissioner Chis Dawson indicated that self-isolation would occur at the point of arrival.

Exemptions will be made for freight, essential services, and 2,500 “critical” staff in the mining and oil and gas industries, who are based interstate but will be allowed to fly in.

The WA government is looking to acquire hotels in order to house people who have nowhere appropriate to undergo self-isolation, or who don’t want to self-isolate. Rottnest Island, a former prison turned into a tourist destination, could be appropriated for this purpose.

More details on our Australia-focused live blog here.

Updated at 7.09am GMT

5.30am GMT

Two people are dead and six wounded in a protest at a Sri Lankan prison where guards fired on inmates to prevent them from fleeing.

Prisoners at the Anuradhapura prison, about 200km from Colombo, were complaining about the decision by the authorities not to allow visitors as a move to contain the virus.

Senaka Perera, president of the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners, said the inmates were protesting congested conditions and the poor quality of meals after the government banned visitors for two weeks to prevent the spread of the virus. Visitors often bring home-cooked food.

Sri Lanka’s prisons are overcrowded, sometimes housing 5,000 inmates in a facility capable of holding 800, according to the pressure group.

Tensions erupted Saturday at the prison when guards tried to control the riot, police said. In the commotion, guards opened fire to prevent inmates from fleeing, police said.

Sri Lanka has imposed a three-day countrywide curfew since Friday as the number of cases has risen to 77.

5.21am GMT

Netflix Inc said it will cut traffic by 25% on networks across Europe in a relief measure for internet service providers (ISPs) experiencing a surge in usage due to government “shelter in place” orders aimed at slowing the coronavirus outbreak.

The streaming giant, which has already deployed a way to reduce its traffic on networks in Italy and Spain by a quarter, on Saturday said it would do the same for the rest of Europe in the next two days.

Netflix said it will remove the highest bandwidth streams within each resolution category for the next 30 days in Europe wherein users might notice a slight decrease in video quality within each category.

Amazon’s Prime Video and YouTube have also committed to slowing their speeds, as has Disney+ which launches in a couple of days.

5.01am GMT

188 new confirmed cases in Thailand

Thailand reported 188 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, its largest daily increase, taking the total to 599 cases, a senior health official said.

The majority of the new infections are connected to a previous cluster of cases from a boxing stadium, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a Public Health Ministry spokesman, told a news conference adding one patient had recovered.

“Most of the new cases were found in Bangkok and were among young people who continue to have social activities, which can lead to more infections,” he said urging the public to stay home.

There has been one death in Thailand.

4.38am GMT

Two female nurses at a medical centre in Japan have contracted the virus, Kyodo newswire said, according to Reuters. One of the nurses was in her 20s and another in her 50s, taking the total at the facility in Oita prefecture to 14.

The south-western prefecture is conducting virus tests for about 600 staff and patients who are or were hospitalised, the newswire said, with the view that they may be linked to a cluster.

Japan has 1,055 domestically transmitted cases, up 40 from the previous day.

4.12am GMT

The outbreak is gathering pace in Latin America.

Colombia has recorded its first death late on Saturday. The victim was a 58-year-old taxi driver from the coastal city of Cartagena, the health ministry said in a statement. Earlier this month he had two Italian tourists in his taxi and two days later presented the first symptoms, the ministry said, adding the man had untreated hypertension and diabetes.

A woman wearing a face mask in Bogota.
A woman wearing a face mask in Bogota. Photograph: Reuters

The patient was first treated on 13 March and died three days later. Two tests for coronavirus came back negative, the statement said, but one was taken incorrectly.

Ecuador’s health and labor ministers resigned on Saturday, just hours after officials announced the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus had shot up to over 500 in the country. The government declared a state of emergency last week, prohibiting travellers from entering and imposing a night-time curfew.

Updated at 4.13am GMT

3.50am GMT

3.32am GMT

Singapore bans entry and transit of visitors

Singapore has just declared a raft of restrictions and bans on entrants.

According to the Straits Times, Singapore will ban all short term visitors from entering or transiting, from 11.59pm Monday.

The only foreigners allowed to return to Singapore will be work pass holders and their dependents, and only if they work in an essential services sector like healthcare or transport.

This is a big expansion on the previous measures which allowed people (apart from a small number of countries) to go to Singapore as long as they underwent 14 days of mandatory quarantine.

It follows news on Saturday of the first two deaths in Singapore from Covid-19 – a 75-year-old Singaporean woman and a 64-year-old Indonesian man.

Updated at 3.57am GMT

3.19am GMT

News America is reporting the number of Covid-19 diagnoses in the Caribbean has surpassed 400.

According to the report the Dominican Republic has the highest number of people confirmed to have Covid-19, with 40 new cases reported on Saturday, bringing the total to 112. Trinidad and Tobago reported 40 new cases on Saturday, having only previously had nine.

There were 10 new deaths reported across the region on Sunday.

One person has died on Guadaloupe, where 56 vases have been confirmed, and one person has died on Martinique where the total number of cases is 37.

It reports the only places without any cases are Belize, Grenada, Turks & Caicos, Anguilla, and the British Virgin Islands.

3.08am GMT

Amazon is raising overtime pay for associates working in its US warehouses as the world’s largest online retailer tries to meet the rapidly growing demand for online shopping from consumers stuck at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, said in a message posted on the company website on Saturday: “My own time and thinking is now wholly focused on Covid-19 and on how Amazon can best play its role.”

Hourly workers at Amazon’s US warehouses will receive double pay after 40 hours for overtime, up from the 1.5-times rate, from March 15 through May 9, the rate increase announcement said.

This is the second time the e-commerce giant announced an increase in pay for its workers in a week. On Monday, Amazon hiked the minimum hourly rate for associates to from and announced plans to hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the United States as the virus outbreak boosts online orders.

Amazon has offered unlimited unpaid time off to encourage employees to stay home if they do not feel well. It has also staggered workers’ shifts and prohibited employees from sitting next to each other in the lunchroom to limit contact.

2.50am GMT

At least 38 people have tested positive for coronavirus in New York City jails, including at the notorious Rikers Island jail complex, the board that oversees the city’s jail system said Saturday.

In the past six days the Board of Correction learned that at least 12 Department of Correction employees, five Correctional Health Services employees, and 21 inmates have tested positive for the virus.

In a letter to criminal justice leaders, the board’s interim chairwoman Jacqueline Sherman wrote that at least 58 other people were currently being monitored in contagious disease and quarantine units.

It is likely these people have been in hundreds of housing areas and common areas over recent weeks and have been in close contact with many other people in custody and staff, Sherman warned, predicting a sharp rise in the number of infections.

At least 38 people have tested positive for coronavirus in New York City jails, including at the notorious Rikers Island jail complex.
At least 38 people have tested positive for coronavirus in New York City jails, including at the notorious Rikers Island jail complex. Photograph: Seth Wenig/AP

New York has consistently downplayed the number of infections, The Associated Press has found in conversations with current and former inmates.

More than 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the United States more than anywhere in the world and there are growing fears that an outbreak could spread rapidly through a vast network of federal and state prisons, county jails and detention centres.

With limited capacity nationally to test for COVID-19, men and women inside worry that they are last in line when showing flu-like symptoms, meaning that some may be infected without knowing it.

The first positive tests from inside prisons and jails started tricking out just over a week ago, with less than two dozen officers and staff infected in other facilities from California and Michigan to Pennsylvania.

2.33am GMT

South Australia has followed Tasmania and the Northern Territory in effectively closing its state borders, enforcing any new arrival to undergo 14 days of quarantine.

South Australia, like the Northern Territory and Queensland (which closed its NT border earlier this week) has a number of remote Indigenous communities. These communities are extremely vulnerable and any outbreak would be devastating.

2.18am GMT

New cases in South Korea, Mexico, Philippines

South Korea reported 98 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing national infections to 8,897, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The daily increase showed a continued downward trend in new cases, despite a slight jump on Saturday.

Mexican health authorities said on Saturday that there are 251 confirmed coronavirus cases in Mexico, 48 more cases than a day earlier.

The Philippines’ health ministry has confirmed 73 new cases, bringing the country’s total to 380.

Updated at 2.58am GMT

2.08am GMT

India announces curfew

India launched a 14-hour long curfew on Sunday to limit the fast-spreading coronavirus epidemic in the country, where 315 people have so far been found to have contracted the disease.

The prime minister, Narendra Modi, in an address to the nation last week urged citizens to stay indoors from 7am to 9pm Delhi time – a move that he said would be a crucial test for a country to assess its abilities to fight the pandemic.

“Let us all be a part of this curfew, which will add tremendous strength to the fight against the Covid-19 menace,” Modi tweeted minutes before the curfew commenced. “The steps we take now will help in the times to come,’ he said in the tweet.

Updated at 2.12am GMT

1.57am GMT

First Covid-19 death in the Pacific

Guam has reported the death of an 68-year-old woman from the Covid-19 illness, Radio New Zealand has reported.

According to Dr Mike Cruz, who is leading Guam’s virus response, the woman had “multiple co-morbidities”, including end-stage renal disease. She was the relative of a person who returned to Guam with Covid-19.

“Five of the first 14 confirmed cases had recent travel, most of which is linked to the Philippines,” Dr Cruz said on Sunday.

“There is strong evidence that Covid-19 cases has spread throughout our community and has affected residents in the northern, central and southern villages,” he added.

There are 15 confirmed cases in Guam, where the government has declared a major disaster. It has more cases than any other Pacific Island nation, and the woman’s death is the first in the region.

1.49am GMT

From Reuters: North Korea on Saturday welcomed what it said was a letter from US president Donald Trump to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying it was a sign of “the special and very firm personal relations” between the two leaders despite recent frictions.

A senior Trump administration official confirmed Trump sent the letter and said it was “consistent with his efforts to engage global leaders during the ongoing pandemic”.

The president looks forward to continued communications with chairman Kim, the official said.

North Korea state media KCNA said Kim had received a letter from Trump in which the US president said he was impressed by the North Korean leader’s efforts to defend his people from the coronavirus.

Trump “expressed his intent to render cooperation in the anti-epidemic work, saying that he was impressed by the efforts made by the Chairman to defend his people from the serious threat of the epidemic,” KCNA reported in a statement carried by Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong.

The report came after North Korea’s missile test on Saturday, which prompted South Korea to urge an immediate halt of “inappropriate action” in the face of the global pandemic.

1.42am GMT

China confirms new domestic case

For the first time in four days China has reported a new domestic case of the virus.

The case is one of 46 new confirmed diagnoses in mainland China, which is the fourth straight day of an increase.

A record 14 were in the financial hub of Shanghai, and 13 were reported in the capital Beijing, a decline from 21 the previous day.

As in other Asian nations which had appeared to get their outbreaks under control, China is now fearful of a second wave brought in by people coming into the country.

1.29am GMT

Hawaii to enforce quarantine for arrivals

In the Pacific island state of Hawaii, governor David Ige has just announced a mandatory 14 day quarantine period for any new arrival. It is the first US state to enact such measures.

The process is much the same as that in other places – on arrival at the airport passengers must declare where they intend to self-isolate for 14 days, and go straight there. They can only leave for medical emergencies or to seek medical care.

The order carries a penalty of up to ,000 or a year in prison for any breaches.

Ige says 2,500 tests have been conducted in Hawaii. On Saturday 11 new cases were reported, including two cases of community transmission.

Updated at 1.31am GMT

1.23am GMT

Back at the press conference with Australia’s PM:

There is an extraordinary story in Australia this weekend, where almost 2,700 people were allowed to disembark a cruiseship in Sydney despite several people on board testing positive. Some of those passengers have since travelled on to other places in Australia.

Neither the NSW state government or the federal immigration authorities want to take responsibility for the potentially disastrous oversight.

Morrison says he isn’t going to get into commentary on it.

“On every occasion things will not go exactly as we might like it,” he says.

“People are working under extreme stress, often with limited information and we are going to support those people to make the best decisions they can and the states and territories standing shoulder to shoulder with each other and the Commonwealth.”

Morrison is asked about the possibility of repatriation flights for Australians overseas who are trying to follow the advice to return from overseas but really can’t get home.

He says people stuck on cruise ships and in Peru are the most extreme examples, and says everyone should contact the department of foreign affairs and trade.

“This is one of the many challenges we’re working on but at this stage I’m not going to advance the possibility of any [repatriation flights].”

1.10am GMT

From my colleague Uki Goñi in Argentina:

Argentina could declare a state of siege to enforce the mandatory nationwide lockdown that started Friday, said Security Minister Sabina Frederic, amid concerns about the social effect of the spread of the coronavirus here. “It’s an extreme measure that we’re trying to avoid,” said the minister.

The number of coronavirus cases leapt to 225 Saturday, an increase of 67 cases, more than double the previous highest leap. Four deaths have been reported since the first case was detected on March 5.

Not all Argentinians are obeying the enforced quarantine, however. Authorities reported 3200 arrests for violating it since it went into effect Friday.

Political leaders are worried that the stoppage imposed on many sectors of the economy could lead to supermarket lootings in some poverty-stricken districts in the Greater Buenos Aires area, in a country where over a third of the population lives below the poverty line.

A man plays guitar on a tenement balcony during the second day of total quarantine in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
A man plays guitar on a tenement balcony during the second day of total quarantine in Buenos Aires on Saturday. Photograph: Ricardo Ceppi/Getty Images

“It’s inevitable thinking that looting might occur,” Buenos Aires province security minister Sergio Berni told the press. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, but we have to be prepared.”

The large number of arrests includes two German tourists, aged 28 and 35, who escaped isolation from a hotel in the central city of Córdoba Tuesday. They were caught Saturday at Ezeiza international airport trying to board a plane to neighbouring Brazil. They are being held pending expulsion back to Germany.

There was nonetheless some good news for Argentinians, with the announcement that all consumer bank debt, including the payment of credit card debt, has been postponed by government order.

“The deadline for all debt with financial entities that fall due between March 20 and March 31, 2020, have been postponed until April 1,” the Central Bank announced.

1.07am GMT

Australia bans all non-essential domestic travel

The Australian government is banning all non-essential domestic travel as it unveils a Abn stimulus program to deal with the virus impact.

It has warned of more draconian measures to come.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has also flagged localised lockdowns after seeing people defy warnings and fill beaches yesterday.

What happened at Bondi Beach yesterday was not OK.

And served as a message to federal and state leaders that too many Australians are not taking these issues seriously enough.

So the measures that we will be considering tonight means that state premiers and chief ministers may have to take far more Draconian measures to enforce social distancing particularly in areas of outbreaks than might otherwise be the case.

You can get more details on this over at the Australian-focused live blog.

12.54am GMT

Incredibly, people across multiple countries are still ignoring warnings to stay home.

We’ve seen the pictures of Australia’s Bondi Beach, and we heard earlier from a UK dentist in Skegness, in Lincolnshire, warning of a “disaster waiting to happen” as thousands of people flocked to his seaside town in spite of official guidance to stay at home.

“I view these actions as massively, massively socially irresponsible. I personally think that those involved should be ashamed of themselves,” said Dr Mitchell Clark.

Clark joined the local police and crime commissioner in urging for local businesses to shutter their shops and for caravan parks to be closed.

It appears similar things are happening in Scotland.

Claudio Nardini, a takeaway shop operator at Largs on the west coast, has pleaded with people to stay home.

We decided to remain open to provide a takeaway service for what I thought would be a few people grabbing the opportunity to appreciate a walk along Largs prom.

Staying open a few more days also allows us to wind things down in and business sense meaning less waste and staff completing their planned shifts.

I can’t believe how busy the prom was. Crowds of people walking hand in hand, hugging, grandmothers holding babies, teenagers sharing drinks, elderly people galore mingling with others of all ages. Wow! Just Wow!

Now, I have strong links to two other countries in Europe and have witnessed this virus develop by talking regularly to family in both Italy and Spain. This nonchalant attitude was rife in both those countries only a couple of weeks ago.

Everyone at work today was overcome with a strange feeling of guilt, almost as if we were contributing to this madness. For this reason we have decided to completely close this evening until this whole thing blows over.

An announcement not long ago pointed out it’s spreading faster here than it did at this stage in both Italy or Spain. Please please please stay at home if you can, I couldn’t bear seeing what is happening to my relatives happen here too.

12.23am GMT

Summary

Welcome to our continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. This is Helen Davidson here to take you through the next few hours of developments.

Here’s what’s happened recently:

  • UK military planners drafted in to help feed vulnerable. Key military officials are to help ensure food and medicines reach vulnerable people isolated at home during the coronavirus crisis, as part of a nationwide campaign to protect more than a million people most at risk of being hospitalised.
  • Italian PM orders businesses to close all operations. Italy’s government announced the closure of all “non-essential production activities” across the country, after the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose by 793 to 4,825 on Saturday. “Grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open,” said the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte. “But all the rest of the non-essential production activities, including plants and offices, will close down.”
  • Former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz dies of Covid-19.The former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz has died of coronavirus aged 76, La Liga announced on Saturday. Sanz, Real’s president from 1995 to 2000, had been admitted to hospital with a fever and tested positive for the virus.
  • Rihanna pledges m to curb coronavirus. Rihanna has become the latest celebrity to join the effort to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. The singer’s Clara Lionel Foundation announced on Saturday that it has donated million to a number of organisations responding to the outbreak.
  • Bolivian presidential elections postponed amid coronavirus outbreak. Bolivia’s interim government announced on Saturday it would postpone presidential elections originally slated for May 3 and institute a mandatory countrywide quarantine for 14 days as coronavirus spread across the Andean nation. The country’s electoral authority said in a statement it would “suspend the elections calendar” for 14 days to match the quarantine, but did not set a new date for the vote.
  • Britons stranded in Peru could be flown home early next week.Hundreds of Britons stranded in Peru due to the coronavirus pandemic could be flown home early next week, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has said. More than 400 British and Irish citizens are believed to be in the Andean nation and have been unable to leave following a 15-day government lockdown imposed since Monday.
  • First coronavirus cases in Gaza Strip. The first two cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the densely-populated Gaza Strip, Palestinian health officials said.

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Biden sweeps to victory in coronavirus affected primaries – live updates

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “US Senate votes to expand free Covid-19 testing and paid leave – as it happened” was written by Maanvi Singh in San Francisco (now), Joan E Greve, Adam Gabbatt and Martin Belam (earlier), for theguardian.com on Thursday 19th March 2020 00.25 UTC

12.22am GMT

Summary

  • Ice will temporarily shift its priorities amid the coronavirus pandemic, delaying arrests of foreign nationals except for those who have committed crimes.
  • A Florida representative said that he tested positive for coronavirus, marking the first case in Congress.
  • The iconic New York Stock Exchange will close floor trading beginning on Monday. Electronic trading will continue.
  • After invoking the Defense Production Act to help make up for medical supply shortages, Donald Trump walked back the move, adding to the confusion surrounding his administration’s coronavirus response.
  • The Senate passed the second coronavirus bill, which expands paid sick leave and provides funding for free testing, on a vote of 90-8. It now heads to Trump’s desk for his signature.
  • The Dow closed down more than 1,300 points, marking another dismal day for the markets as investors panic over the coronavirus crisis. With today’s drop, nearly all the stock market gains since Trump took office have been wiped out.
  • Bernie Sanders’ campaign said he was assessing the path forward for his presidential bid, after Joe Biden completed a three-state sweep last night and moved closer toward securing the Democratic nomination.
  • The US-Canadian border will be closed to all non-essential travel in the hope of mitigating the spread of coronavirus. Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the two countries had mutually agreed to the closure.

Updated at 12.25am GMT

12.04am GMT

The temporary policies that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has announced in response to the coronavirus pandemic resemble the Obama administration’s “felons, not families” approach.

Under the previous administration, immigrants without serious criminal offenses were often spared deportation. Donald Trump changed priorities, and his administration has often underscored that all undocumented immigrants are subject to deportation.

The new Ice policy comes after immigration lawyers joined with labor unions representing Ice prosecutors and immigration judges to ask the Justice Department to temporarily close the immigration courts. Though there are no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ice detention facilities, doctors and public health officials have warned that detained populations are at high risk.

It’s unclear whether the 37,000 people already in Ice detention will remain there. Overcrowding at detention facilities puts not only those who are detained but also enforcement agents and officers at risk, according to the internal watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Ice.

Although no cases of coronavirus have been confirmed at detention centers, one person was evaluated with coronavirus symptoms at a facility in San Diego. Another center in Washington state’s King’s county closed for two weeks due to concerns that an employee was infected.

The enforcement agency has not said for how long the new policies will be in place.

Updated at 12.15am GMT

11.47pm GMT

FLOTUS to star in coronavirus PSAs

Melania Trump
Melania Trump
Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Melania Trump will appear in public service announcements that “address the “important ways Americans can protect themselves and those most at risk” from contracting and spreading the coronavirus, according to the White House.

Coronavirus PSAs featuring Surgeon General Jerome Adams, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx and other officials will also be nationally broadcast. It’s unclear when these will launch.

Melania Trump has been notably disengaged from the White House’s messaging on coronavirus thus far. On Tuesday, she tweeted, “Consider taking advantage of time working from home to connect with your loved ones via email or FaceTime, spend time w family, or work on your well-being by reading a book or spending time on a hobby,” apparently unaware that most people who work from home have to spend their time … working.

11.28pm GMT

Miami-Dade County will restrict of close all non-essential business, its mayor announced. Starting tomorrow, non-essential retail, private educational facilities and casinos will be closed.

“These actions are necessary to keep our community safe from the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring the continuity of essential services,” officials said in a statement.

The county declared a state of emergency last week. Now, food service establishments, bars and clubs have been ordered to close. Restaurants can remain open for takeout and delivery. Miami shut down its beach earlier after spring break revelers failed to practice social distancing.

11.14pm GMT

Ice confirms that it will “temporarily adjust its enforcement posture”.

The agency will focus “on public safety risks and individuals subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds,” it said in a statement. In all other cases agents “will exercise discretion to delay enforcement actions until after the crisis or utilize alternatives to detention, as appropriate,” the agency said.

10.59pm GMT

Ice to change enforcement policies

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is reportedly making changes to its policies, in response to the coronavirus pandemic according to multiple reports.

Updated at 11.40pm GMT

10.53pm GMT

Representatives reports first coronavirus case in Congress

Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican of Florida, has tested positive for coronavirus, he said in a statement. “I’m feeling much better,” he said. “However, it’s important that everyone take this seriously.”

Diaz-Balart appears to be the first member of Congress who has tested positive for the disease.

Updated at 11.41pm GMT

10.44pm GMT

Donald Trump’s walk-back of his decision to invoke the Defense Production Act isn’t the first time he’s vacillated. The president’s response to the pandemic has been hot and cold, writes Luke O’Neil:

On Monday this week Trump, seeming to finally take the threat seriously, said: “We have a problem that a month ago nobody ever thought about.”

The next day, attempting to rewrite history, he said he felt it was a pandemic long before it was declared a pandemic.

And then, on Wednesday morning: “I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the ‘borders’ from China – against the wishes of almost all. Many lives were saved.”

10.25pm GMT

The New York Stock Exchange’s decision to temporarily close the floor was prompted by the positive coronavirus test results of two people, Stacey Cunningham, President of the NYSE, told CNBC.

“We implemented a number a number of safety precautions over the past couple of weeks, and starting on Monday this week we started pre-emptive testing of employees and screening of anyone who came into the building,” Cunningham said on “Closing Bell.” “If that screening warranted additional testing, we tested people and they were sent home and not given access to the building. A couple of those test cases have come back positive.”

This is the first time the physical trading floor will be shut while electronic trading continues. The floor was previously closed during World War II and in the aftermath of 9/11.

10.16pm GMT

After invoking the Defense Production Act to help make up for medical supply shortages and deploy hospital ships to help mitigate the coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump appears to be walking back the move.

Trump tweeted that he’d only signed an executive order signaling he’d invoke the DPA “should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future.”

The message contradicts his earlier statements. During the White House press briefing today, Trump said he sees himself “in a sense as a wartime president” after invoking an act established in 1950 in response to production needs during the Korean war as a response to the coronavirus crisis.

Trump’s executive order said he’d use the DPA to help provide “health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of COVID-19, including personal protective equipment and ventilators.”

Updated at 10.19pm GMT

9.53pm GMT

McDaniel is one of nearly 60,000 people who have been tested in the US, as public health experts continue to raise concerns about shortages. The Guardian’s Lauren Aratani reports that not everyone who needs a test has been able to get one:

Who is getting tested in the US?

Decisions about who is getting tested are being made at the county and state level.

Broadly, CDC guidelines to healthcare professionals say that those tested must be showing symptoms, and priority is given to those who are in hospital, are at risk for the virus’s most deadly effects (elderly people and those with chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems) or had known contact with a person who tested positive as priorities for testing. The CDC also says those who have a history of travel from “affected geographic areas” – China, Iran, South Korea and parts of Europe – should be prioritized.

But there appears to be no guarantee of a test. Over the past few weeks, there has been a flood of stories of people who are symptomatic and should be prioritized by testing, but were not: for example, the elderly husband of a coronavirus patient who died from the illness, healthcare workers who may have been exposed to the virus and countless numbers of symptomatic travelers to countries with known outbreaks.

Those who have been tested have often described frustrating experiences of being sent from one place to another seeking a test.

Fueling the frustration are stories of high-profile figures who have managed to get tested. The NBA got 58 tests within six hours for players of the Utah Jazz, though it is unclear how many players were actually showing symptoms. A fashion influencer who had body aches and a fever was tested with the help of a friend, after other doctors she spoke with told her she did not qualify for testing in New York state.

Updated at 9.54pm GMT

9.49pm GMT

The chair of the Republican party has tested negative for coronavirus.

Ronna McDaniel was tested, “on the advice of her doctor,” according to a spokesperson. “That test has, fortunately, come back negative.”

9.45pm GMT

One Native American tribe’s trailblazing coronavirus response:

The Lummi nation, a sovereign Native American tribe in the Pacific north-west, will soon open a pioneering field hospital to treat coronavirus patients, as part of a wave of strong public health measures which have gone further than many governments.

Tribal leaders have been preparing for Covid-19 since the virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, with medical staff beefing up emergency plans, reorganizing services and gathering medical supplies, including test kits and personal protective equipment.

The Lummi reservation is located in Whatcom county – 115 miles north of Seattle, Washington, where the first US Covid-19 case was confirmed in January, followed by the first death in February.

So far, the tribe has reported three Covid-19 cases, but expect numbers to rise as the pandemic progresses.

As the Trump administration stalled, the tribe swiftly introduced mitigation and prevention measures such as social distancing, drive-through testing, telemedicine clinics, and a home delivery service for the elderly.

The tribal council declared a state of emergency on 3 March – 10 days before Donald Trump did the same in the US – and approved m to prepare and respond for the evolving pandemic, which includes setting up the hospital.

9.33pm GMT

Donald Trump announced plans to formally nominate Russ Vought to direct the Office of Management and Budget. Vought has served as the acting director of the office for more than a year.

Vought has come under fire for doubling down on proposed cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last week, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, Matt Cartwright, a Democratic representative of Pennsylvania, pushed Vought on Trump’s proposal to cut Health and Human Services funding by .5 billion. The cut included a .2bn decrease to the CDC and a m decrease to the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund’s annual contribution.

“If you’re asking if I’m sending up a budget amendment, no, I’m not sending up a budget amendment,” Vought said.

The OMB later said that the CDC cuts in the budget didn’t affect infectious diseases and that Trump’s budget request included .3bn in funds for Infectious Diseases and Preparedness.

9.17pm GMT

Hi, there — this is Maanvi Singh, taking over from the West Coast.

The New Yor Stock Exchange will temporarily switch to electronic trading starting on Monday. Floor trading will be suspended in order to protect everyone from the spread of coronavirus.

“The decision to temporarily close the trading floors represents a precautionary step to protect the health and well-being of employees and the floor community in response to COVID-19,” said Intercontinental Exchange, Inc, which operates global exchanges and clearinghouses.

9.04pm GMT

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • The Senate passed the second coronavirus bill, which expands paid sick leave and provides funding for free testing, on a vote of 90-8. It now heads to Trump’s desk for his signature.
  • The Dow closed down more than 1,300 points, marking another dismal day for the markets as investors panic over the coronavirus crisis. With today’s drop, nearly all the stock market gains since Trump took office have been wiped out.
  • Bernie Sanders’ campaign said he was assessing the path forward for his presidential bid, after Joe Biden completed a three-state sweep last night and moved closer toward securing the Democratic nomination.
  • The US-Canadian border will be closed to all non-essential travel in the hope of mitigating the spread of coronavirus. Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the two countries had mutually agreed to the closure.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

8.57pm GMT

Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke over the phone shortly after the president announced the US-Canadian border was being closed to non-essential travel.

“The two leaders discussed the coronavirus pandemic and the close cooperation on efforts to combat the virus, including the agreement to reduce movement across the United States-Canada border to essential travel only,” the White House said in a statement.

“President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau agreed it was important to preserve supply chains and trade, regardless of travel restrictions.”

8.41pm GMT

Before an event with nurses at the White House, Trump spoke to reporters about the “Chinese virus,” despite widespread criticism of his usage of that term to describe coronavirus.

Trump said his press conference with FDA officials, which he previewed on Twitter earlier today, would take place tomorrow. “The FDA will be working very very hard, and I appreciate what they’re doing,” Trump said.

The president also said he was impressed by the “tremendous spirit” he was seeing in the country.

“Even Republicans and Democrats are getting together, for the most part, but they’re getting together,” said Trump, who has repeatedly criticized Democratic lawmakers amid the crisis. “So that’s a good thing to see.”

8.21pm GMT

Eight Republican senators — Marsha Blackburn, Jim Inhofe, James Lankford, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ben Sasse, Tim Scott and Ron Johnson — voted against the second coronavirus bill.

Some Republicans had raised objections about how the paid sick leave outlined in the bill could affect small businesses.

With the legislation passed, senators will now focus on the third coronavirus bill, a stimulus package that could end up costing more than trillion.

8.12pm GMT

Senate passes second coronavirus bill

The Senate has just passed the second package aimed at combatting the coronavirus crisis, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 90-8, will help expand free testing and provide American workers with paid leave if they are sick or need to self-quarantine.

The bill will now head to Trump’s desk for his signature, and lawmakers will turn their attention to the third coronavirus package, aimed at bolstering the economy amid the crisis.

8.10pm GMT

Dow closes down 1,300 points

The Dow has officially closed down about 1,300 points, or 6%, after another bad day due to concerns about the coronavirus crisis.

However, the Dow looked a bit better at the closing bell than it did earlier in the day, when it was down more than 2,000 points.

The steep losses led to a halt in trading, the fourth such pause in the past two weeks.

Today’s drop, combined with other recent losses, nearly wipes out all the stock market gains since Trump took office.

For more updates and analysis, follow the Guardian’s business live blog:

7.51pm GMT

Bernie Sanders lashed out against a CNN reporter who asked him about the future of his presidential campaign after Joe Biden swept three contests last night.

“I’m dealing with a fucking global crisis,” Sanders told CNN’s Manu Raju. “You know, we’re dealing with.”

When Raju continued to press Sanders, the Vermont senator replied, “Well right now, right now I’m trying to do my best to make sure that we don’t have an economic meltdown and that people don’t die. Is that enough for you to keep me busy for today?”

Sanders’ campaign said he is assessing his path forward as Biden has secured an arguably insurmountable delegate lead and more Democrats are calling on Sanders to drop out of the race.

7.32pm GMT

Trump’s final primary challenger reportedly withdraws

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, the last remaining long-shot candidate challenging Trump for the Republican presidential campaign, is reportedly ending his campaign.

Weld’s announcement comes one day after Trump secured enough delegates in the Republican presidential primary to become the presumptive nominee.

Weld had hoped to appeal to more moderate Republicans who have concerns about Trump, but the former governor won only 9% of the vote in New Hampshire.

A few other Republican candidates, such as former congressman Joe Walsh and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, similarly tried to challenge Trump, but none of them were able to shake the president’s lock on the party base.

7.07pm GMT

JPMorgan is now predicting the second quarter of this year could see the US economy slump by as much as 14% because of the coronavirus crisis.

If the bank’s second-quarter prediction is accurate, it would mean that this year will see the worst three-month economic period in the US since World War II.

6.52pm GMT

Joe Biden urged Americans to focus on Trump’s actions in response to the coronavirus crisis, rather than his tone.

The Democratic presidential candidate’s warning comes as a number of commentators have noted Trump’s tone has become increasingly grim in recent days.

The president claimed on Sunday that his administration had “tremendous control” over the crisis. A day later, he acknowledged that no country has control over the virus right now.

However, health experts have warned that the administration has already lost critical time in responding to the crisis.

6.36pm GMT

The Pentagon said the Comfort, one of the hospital ships designated to help with the coronavirus crisis, is receiving maintenance and will not be ready to go for weeks.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said officials are trying to expedite the maintenance process, so the Comfort can get to New York and provide hospital beds to the city as it battles coronavirus.

The Mercy, which is supposed to go to the west coast, will be ready much more quickly, Hoffman said.

Both ships are expected to assist hospitals by taking some non-coronavirus cases and hopefully prevent a shortage of hospital beds.

6.27pm GMT

The Guardian’s Nina Lakhani reports:

Puerto Rico has requested US authorities suspend national and international flights for two weeks – in a last ditch effort to lock down the carribean island and prevent localized spread of Covid-19.

Governor Wanda Vázquez has also asked Federal Aviation Administrator, Stephen Marshall, to close all airports where local authorities aren’t screening incoming passengers and limit the air-strips where charter planes can land.

Puerto Rico, a US territory of 3.2 million people, has five confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 21 others currently awaiting test results. All five cases are linked to travel. The island’s overburdened healthcare system, weak sanitation system and aging population, make it vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus.

Today’s intervention is the latest in a series of dramatic measures since the weekend when Vázquez imposed a curfew from 9pm and 5am, and ordered all non-essential businesses to close until the end of March The island, which depends heavily on tourism, has suspended cruise ships from docking, and is screening incoming passengers at its main international airport in the capital San Juan.

6.18pm GMT

The secretary of the interior has announced entrance fees will be waived for national parks as the country battles coronavirus.

“Our vast public lands that are overseen by the Department offer special outdoor experiences to recreate, embrace nature and implement some social distancing,” secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement.

5.58pm GMT

The Guardian’s Sam Levine reports:

The US Census Bureau announced Wednesday it was suspending all of its field operations to get people to respond to the 2020 census, the decennial survey that aims to count every person in America.

The Bureau said it would suspend its field operations until April 1, and encouraged people to respond online or by telephone in the meantime. The decision stalls years of careful planning to get people to respond to the survey.

The Bureau still has plans to send out field workers in May to follow up with people who fail to self-respond, a critical effort that aims to ensure hard-to-count groups get counted. The Bureau said Wednesday it would adjust that operation as necessary to follow the guidance of public health authorities.

The decision, made to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, came about a week after Americans began filling out the survey. The results of the census have profound political consequences — the data is used to allocate .5 trillion in federal funding and to draw electoral districts in place for the next decade. The decennial census is mandated by the constitution.

Coronavirus concerns add to a pile of challenges facing the bureau. There is considerable concern that minorities and immigrant groups will be fearful of responding to the survey because of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies. Individual census responses must be kept confidential by law.

Updated at 5.58pm GMT

5.52pm GMT

The Detroit Three — Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler — have agreed to temporarily close all US plants to protect workers against coronavirus.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Ford Motor Co. said after Thursday evening shifts, Ford is temporarily suspending production at its North America plants through March 30 to thoroughly clean its facilities to protect its workforce and boost containment efforts for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Ford said it will continue to work closely with union leaders to find ways to help keep workers healthy and safe, ‘even as we look at solutions for continuing to provide the vehicles customers really want and need,’ said Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America. ‘In these unprecedented times, we’re exploring unique and creative solutions to support our workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities.’

Union leaders had pushed for the shutdown for the sake of workers’ health, but the move does make it more likely that auto giants will later seek financial assistance to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

5.36pm GMT

The Dow has now dropped below where it was on the day of Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

Therefore, all of the stock market gains that Trump has repeatedly boasted about have now been wiped out.

5.30pm GMT

Trading halted again amid steep losses

This is Joan Greve in Washington, taking over for Adam Gabbatt.

Trading was temporarily halted at the New York Stock Exchange, with the Dow currently down more than 1,800 points.

This marks the fourth time in two weeks that trading has been halted because of steep losses linked to investors’ fears about the coronavirus crisis.

For the latest updates on the market drop, follow the Guardian’s business live blog:

5.10pm GMT

Summary

•The government has closed the US-Canada border to “non-essential traffic”, Donald Trump announced, as the number of coronavirus cases continued to rise. Speaking at a White House press conference, Trump also said the government was preparing new test kits, but did not elaborate on a new financial package to combat the impact of Covid-19.

•The aid package proposed by the White House would direct tn to businesses and individuals. A treasury department memo said 0bn could be spent on two separate payments to Americans. The plan also provides bn for the airline industry, and 0bn for other effected businesses.

•Bernie Sanders is ‘assessing the path forward’ for his campaign, after a disappointing showing on Tuesday. Sander’s campaign manager said the senator would travel to his home state of Vermont today, where Sanders and his wife will “begin holding conversations with supporters to get input and assess the path forward for our campaign”.

•The federal government is dispatching two hospital ships to respond to the coronavirus crisis. Trump said the ships, Mercy and Comfort, were being readied. New York governor Andrew Cuomo said earlier that the Comfort was heading for New York City harbor.

•Trump said he was not being racist by continuing to use the term “China virus”, even as reports emerged of bias against Asian people. Experts have warned against labelling the coronavirus based on geography as it could stigmatize ethnic groups, but Trump said it was: “Not racist at all.”

4.58pm GMT

Bernie Sanders suspends Facebook campaign ads – report

Bernie Sanders “currently has no active Facebook ads”, Axios reports.

The news comes after Sanders’ campaign manager said the Vermont senator will “assess the path forward” for his campaign.

On Tuesday Sanders lost all three primary states to Joe Biden.

Axios reports:

A pause in digital advertising spend on Facebook has been a good indicator that candidates are dropping out of the 2020 race before. Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg made their Facebook ads inactive hours before they suspended their campaigns.

4.46pm GMT

Trump was asked why a number of athletes have been tested for coronavirus, despite showing symptoms, while other Americans have not been able to get access to tests.

“You’d have to ask them that question,” Trump said.

There was a follow-up question: do the well-connected have ways to get tests that everyday people don’t?

“Perhaps that’s the story of life,” Trump said, not very helpfully.

He didn’t expand.

4.42pm GMT

Trump was asked if the White House’s economic coronavirus package would be similar to reports that suggest it would cost tn, 0bn of which would go to Americans in the form of two payments.

“It could be,” Trump said. He said he did not want to elaborate as details of the package are “moving”.

“We’re also playing with a lot of numbers a lot of very big numbers and a lot of small numbers, frankly,” Trump said.

4.37pm GMT

Trump: use of term China Virus is ‘not racist at all’

Trump has denied he is being racist by continually referring to the coronavirus as the “China virus”.

At the White House press conference, Trump was asked why he insisted on using the term even as there have been reports of bias against Chinese and Asian people due to the coronavirus. Experts have warned against labelling the coronavirus based on geography as it could stigmatise ethnic groups.

Trump said he used the term: “Because it comes from China.”

“It’s not racist at all,” Trump said. (He called Covid-19 “China virus” again in the press conference today.)

Trump also said he does not believe his own Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin’s assessment that unemployment could skyrocket to 20% due to the coronavirus.

“I don’t agree with that,” Trump said at a White House press conference.

“That’s an absolute total worst case scenario.”

4.29pm GMT

Donald Trump will invoke the Defense Production Act, he said, to expand production of hospital masks and protective gear.

Trump was speaking at the White House press conference.

The White House is also recommending that medical professionals “eliminate non-essential surgical procedures” during the coronvirus crisis, Seema Verma administrator of the Centers for medicare and medicaid services, said.

4.25pm GMT

Deborah Birx, the White House, coronavirus response coordinator, has warned that there may be a “disproportional number of infections” among millennials.

Speaking during a press conference at the White House, Birx warned that social distancing needs to be practiced across th US.

“We cannot have these large gatherings that continue to occur,” Birx said.

Should someone contract coronavirus at such a gathering, Birx said: “You have the potential then to spread it to someone who does have a [pre-existing] condition.

4.16pm GMT

Trump says government working on new coronavirus test

Trump is holding a press conference at the White House right now.

The government is readying two hospital ships, Trump said – “big white ships with the cross on the sides” – named Mercy and Comfort. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference earlier that the Comfort was heading for New York City.

Working on a new, simpler method of testing for Covid-19, Trump said. Health professionals are working on whether people can do a “self-swab” test. The current testing procedure is more complicated, Trump said.

The department of housing and urban development will “suspend all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April”.

“It’s the invisible enemy, that’s always the toughest enemy,” Trump said.

He said the virus would be defeated, adding: “I think we’re going to do it even faster than we thought.”

Updated at 4.26pm GMT

3.50pm GMT

Hospital ship to be sent to New York, governor says

The federal government is sending the USNS Comfort “hospital ship” to New York, as the state continues to grapple with the coronavirus crisis.

Andrew Cuomo announced that the ship, which has a total patient capacity of 1,000, had been dispatched to New York City’s harbor.

Cuomo also said he was issuing a “mandatory statewide requirement”, that no business “can have more than 50% of their workforce report for work outside of the home”.

The order exempts essential services including food delivery, food stores and healthcare.

New York is the hardest hit state by Covid-19, with 2,382 confirmed cases in New York state – 1,339 of which are in New York City.

“We’re responding to science and data, there’s no politics here,” Cuomo said.

The hospital ship USNS Comfort, anchored off the coast of Castries, Saint Lucia in September 2019.
The hospital ship USNS Comfort, anchored off the coast of Castries, Saint Lucia in September 2019.
Photograph: Morgan K Nall/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 3.52pm GMT

3.33pm GMT

White House coronavirus plan would send 00 to many – report

The White House is working with Congress on a financial plan that would issue two checks for 00 to many Americans, according to the Washington Post.

The Post has obtained a memo from the Treasury department outlining a potential package to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus, which would also include 0bn for small businesses.

According to the Washington Post the tn package would “send two ,000 checks to many Americans”.

The Treasury department says the first payment would be made on April 6 and another on May 18.

The payments, which would total 0bn, would be “tiered based on income level and family size”, according to the document.

The Treasury department also suggests funneling bn to the airline industry, and 0bn to other “severely distressed sectors of the US economy”.

3.11pm GMT

New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo has warned the state’s hospital system is likely to be overwhelmed by the coronavirus crisis.

Appearing on the New York Times’ podcast, Cuomo said it was not the time for concern over the financial implications of the virus response.

“You are past the time of monetizing these decisions,” Cuomo told the Times.

“You are at a point of deciding: how many people are going to live, how many people are going to die?”

From the Times:

“We are seeing the enemy on the horizon, and they are approaching very quickly and we don’t have our defense in place,” Cuomo said. He said the hospital system was likely to be overwhelmed. “There is no way they can handle this.”

He continued: “I’m watching the increase in cases, and you take one measure and you see what the effect was. You take another measure and you see what the effect was. And nothing was having an effect. Nothing we were doing.”

Andrew Cuomo speaking to the media earlier this week.
Andrew Cuomo speaking to the media earlier this week.
Photograph: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/REX/Shutterstock

2.58pm GMT

It’s the “usual suspects” that are dragging the Dow Jones down today.

Boeing has lost another 16%, American Express are down 10% and Home Depot have lost 9%, reflecting the slump in travel and consumer spending, my colleague Graeme Wearden reports.

In (slightly) better news, however, pharmacy firm Walgreens Boots are up 4%, though, with Walmart up 3.7% and Procter & Gamble 1.2% higher.

2.15pm GMT

Sanders campaign – ‘We are losing the battle over electability’

Bernie Sanders will return to Vermont today, his campaign manager said, where he will “begin holding conversations with supporters to get input and assess the path forward for our campaign”.

“No sugarcoating it, last night did not go the way we wanted,” Faiz Shakir said in an email to supporters.

“And while our campaign has won the battle of ideas, we are losing the battle over electability to Joe Biden.”

Shakir said:

Bernie will likely have a vote on the coronavirus in the Senate today. He’ll take that vote, and you can expect him to continue his fight to ensure we are protecting working people, low-income people, and the most vulnerable communities, not just giant corporations and Wall Street in any response to the virus.

Then after this vote today, Bernie and Jane are going to get on a plane back to Vermont. Once there, they’ll begin holding conversations with supporters to get input and assess the path forward for our campaign. We will keep you updated as those conversations progress.

In the meantime, please continue to stay safe, and thank you for everything you’ve done so far. It means the world to Bernie and Jane.

Bernie Sanders in Chicago earlier in March.
Bernie Sanders in Chicago earlier in March.
Photograph: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Updated at 2.34pm GMT

1.59pm GMT

A shutdown of the United States-Canada border, barring all non-essential travel, is likely to be met with strong approval in Canada, as health officials grapple with a surge in coronavirus cases originating in the United States.

When prime minister Justin Trudeau previously announced the closure of Canada’s border to international travelers earlier this week, he made a large exception: American citizens could still travel north.

But a growing number of coronavirus cases has likely shifted the government’s calculations in recent days.

“We have 32 new [cases] in the last 24 hours,” Dr Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said Monday. “And a significant number of those were exposed [to the virus] in the United States.”

British Columbia’s health minister has been the most vocal of critic of Americans still having permission to travel into Canada. The westernmost province has been hit hard in recent days by a surge in cases, many of which are suspected of have originated in northern Washington state, one of the deadliest locations in the country for the virus.

“It’s our strong view and it’s our strong message that visitors from the United States not come to British Columbia,” said minister Adrian Dix at a press conference Tuesday night, as health officials announced a surge in cases- and three more deaths. “Don’t come. Because at this moment that is the wrong thing to do.”

Updated at 2.18pm GMT

1.52pm GMT

Wall Street slumps, wiping out gains

Not even the prospect of a .2 trillion stimulus package could prevent the New York stock market from sliding.

Wall Street slumped roughly 5% as soon as the opening bell rang, wiping out most of yesterday’s rally.

  • Dow: down 1,267 points or 6% at 19,970 points
  • S&P 500: down 132 points or 5.24% at 2,396 points
  • Nasdaq: down 304 points of 4% at 7,030.21 points

You can follow the Guardian’s business-specific live blog here:

1.50pm GMT

US-Canada border to close

Donald Trump has announced the border with Canada will be closed to “non-essential traffic”. It comes after the US restricted travel from much of Europe and other countries impacted by the coronavirus.

We’ll post more details as they emerge.

Updated at 2.10pm GMT

1.09pm GMT

News of Bernie Sanders assessing his campaign comes after Joe Biden made an overture to Sanders supporters last night.

In a video following Biden’s wins, Biden said he and Sanders shared common goals on regarding healthcare, inequality and the climate crisis.

“Senator Sanders and his supporters have brought remarkable passion and tenacity to these issues, and together, they have shifted the fundamental conversation in the country,” Biden said.

“So let me say especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders, I hear you. I know what to stake, […]

I know what we have to do. Our goal is as a campaign, and my goal as a candidate for president is to unify this party, and then to unify the nation.

12.39pm GMT

Sanders to “assess campaign” and focus on coronavirus response

The Sanders’s campaign has just issued the following statement via campaign manager Faiz Shakir:

The next primary contest is at least three weeks away. Sen. Sanders is going to be having conversations with his supporters to assess his campaign. In the immediate term, however, he is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people the most vulnerable

More to follow…

12.21pm GMT

As promised, here’s a round-up of some reaction to those Joe Biden victories last night.

Jim Newell at Slate said it was the night that Biden put it all together, even as the primaries fell apart

The race is effectively over. Biden has built up an insurmountable delegate lead and, barring some major medical issue—we hear there’s a bug going around?— he will be the Democratic presidential nominee. It seemed hard to imagine that Democratic voters could speak with any clear voice just two and a half weeks ago, when there were still seven Democratic candidates jockeying for a percentage point or a delegate here and there. More than half of pledged delegates will have been allotted once Tuesday’s results are final, and Democratic voters couldn’t speak much more clearly.

Read it hereSlate: Joe Biden Puts It All Together as Primary Season Falls Apart

Rebecca Morin and Jeanine Santucci were putting together the takeaways for USA Today, and they made a key point about what the demographics from last night are telling us

Throughout the campaign, Sanders touted his ability to bring out new voters to participate in the election and power his win. But with turnout up before the coronavirus pandemic, Sanders’ prediction didn’t pan out. Younger voters have not turned out in the numbers he needs to close the gap with Biden. A key demographic that Sanders has relied on, Latino voters, also did not help carry Sanders to victory this time. Latinos, who are not a monolithic voting bloc, did not turn to Sanders in Florida or Arizona. Biden won more Latino vote in those states than Sanders did.

Read it hereUSA Today: Biden stays in the driver’s seat, coronavirus changes our elections

For the New York Times, Giovanni Russonello highlighted how unusual Sanders’ speech was last night, considering it was an election day.

Sanders made no announcement Tuesday night about the future of his campaign — though things are looking pretty bleak right now. Instead, he gave a video address early in the evening that outlined how he would confront the coronavirus. Moments before primary results arrive is an unusual time for a policy speech, but Sanders called for increased access to virus testing, free health care and sending ,000 a month to every family in the country.

Read it hereNYT: Biden Gets Out the Broom

Among our panel verdict on the primaries, Art Cullen was unequivocal:

This has to end. The coronavirus has ravaged the primary voting process. Turnout was stunted, but Joe Biden won big again Tuesday on mail-in ballots. Ohio’s primary was postponed. The only way to run an election amid a pandemic is through mail-in ballots, which probably can’t be managed by the June national party deadline. It has to end. Bernie Sanders must drop out and clear the mess.

Read it hereBiden dominated again – is it time for Sanders to quit?

12.15pm GMT

Trump repeatedly calls coronavirus “the Chinese virus” in series of tweets

Trump has been tweeting, and once again been calling Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, “the Chinese virus”. It is one of the things that is ramping up tension between the two nations. It doesn’t look like Trump is going to be dialling that rhetoric down any time soon.

Trump is also claiming, without offering any evidence, that he took the coronavirus outbreak seriously from the start, suggesting it is a false media narrative that he did not.

Just as a reminder, at the end of February, Trump said “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

The number of confirmed cases in the US is currently at 6,496, and every state is affected.

11.49am GMT

I’ll be posting some links to reaction around the media to Biden’s primary victories shortly, but it is not just election politics that is being affected by coronavirus. Day-to-day on Capitol Hill is going to change too.

The Associated Press are reporting this morning on how Congressional leaders are resisting calls to let lawmakers vote remotely, with it being described as a dispute which is pitting coronavirus against two centuries of tradition.

Advocates of the voting change cite the health perils of air travel at a time when health experts want people to avoid crowds. They argue that as infections spread, it may become all but impossible for many lawmakers to make the journey because of the growing risk of getting the virus.

“There was a time when physical presence was the only way to make sure that a person was present and voting,” No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin said on Tuesday. “I think that technology gives us other options and we better exercise them.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was not having it. “We’ll not be doing that,” McConnell he told reporters. He suggested his chamber might extend roll call votes beyond the traditional 15 minutes and allow senators to vote in small groups, rather than all at once. “We will deal with the social distancing issue without fundamentally changing Senate rules,” McConnell said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose hometown of San Francisco is among many Bay Area communities whose residents have been ordered to stay home, has also opposed the idea, according to lawmakers who’ve spoken to her.

Whether these objections continue to be sustainable if the coronavirus crisis lasts for several months remains to be seen.

11.38am GMT

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams has been on the TV this morning. Challenged on whether people are getting the administration’s message, he said: “I think we are starting to turn a corner and people really are, because it is starting to affect people who they see or know.”

He joked that his sons at home don’t care what dad says about staying home, even if their dad is the surgeon general, but “by golly they know that Kevin Durant just got diagnosed with the coronavirus”

You can watch it here:

11.16am GMT

The global pandemic is straining ties between the United States and China further. Matthew Lee, diplomatic writer at Associated Press, has been looking at how coronavirus became the latest flashpoint between the two nations:

Since the virus has spread, he reports, Trump and his top aides have stepped up their criticism of China, noting consistently that the outbreak was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan. They have referred to Covid-19 as the “Wuhan virus” or the “Chinese virus” on multiple occasions, disregarding World Health Organization terminology that avoids identifying the virus by geography.

On Tuesday alone, Trump discussed the Chinese source of virus outbreak during at least two events. At a State Department news conference, Mike Pompeo referred six times to Covid-19 as the “Wuhan virus”, and suggested the Chinese are attempting to distract the world from the shortcomings of its initial response.

In a meeting with hotel executives at the White House, Trump took pains to make clear that the virus originated in China, asking pointed questions of Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson about where the impact was first felt.

“And this all started in China? That’s where you first saw the problem and where you first got hit?” Trump asked.

“Absolutely,” Sorenson replied.

“Hopefully, you all heard that,” Trump told reporters.

Having already been targeted by Trump in a trade war and by Pompeo and others for repression of Muslim and other religious and ethnic minorities in western Xinjiang Province, the Chinese have taken particular offence to the constant repetition, complaining vociferously and suggesting that the US military may have actually introduced the virus to Wuhan.

“Recently, some American politicians have linked the new coronavirus with China to stigmatize China. We express strong indignation and opposition to it,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Tuesday. “We urge the US to immediately correct its mistakes and stop unwarranted accusations against China.”

That, in turn, has prompted angry US protests with the State Department hauling in China’s ambassador to the United States to complain and Pompeo calling the top Chinese diplomat to re-register the anger.

“The disinformation campaign that they are waging is designed to shift responsibility,” Pompeo said, before quickly adding that “now is not the time for recriminations.”

Yet recriminations seem to be the order of the day.

“China was putting out information which was false that our military gave this to them,” Trump said. “That was false. And rather than having an argument I said I have to call it where it came from. It did come from China. So I think it’s a very accurate term. But no, I didn’t appreciate the fact that China was saying that our military gave it to them.”

Shortly after Trump’s comments, the Chinese foreign ministry announced the expulsion of American reporters from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

Pompeo responded to that news: “I regret China’s decision today to further foreclose the world’s ability to conduct free press operations that frankly, would be really good, really good for the Chinese people in these incredibly challenging global times. Where more information, more transparency are what will save lives. This is unfortunate,” he said. “I hope they will reconsider.”

11.00am GMT

Another thing we can expect today is further fall-out from the Chinese decision yesterday to expel American journalists.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing had been “compelled” to take countermeasures after Washington imposed restrictions on staff at Chinese state media outlets in the US.

“We urge the US to take off its ideological prejudice, abandon cold war mentality,” Geng said. “China is not one to start trouble, but it will not blink if trouble comes. We urge the US side to immediately stop suppressing Chinese media, otherwise the US side will lose even more.”

At least 13 journalists will be expelled in what is an unprecedented retaliation against foreign media working in the country. An announcement made just after midnight said all US journalists working for the New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal whose credentials were up for renewal this year would have 10 days to turn in their press cards, a measure that effectively bans them from reporting in the country.

10.49am GMT

Good morning. Last night Joe Biden swept to victory in three primaries held in unprecedented circumstances. Biden has now racked up 1,147 pledged delegates to Bernie Sanders’ 861 – a lead of 286 that surely looks to be insurmountable. Is it time for Bernie to quit the race in the interest of unifying the party during a national emergency?

Ohio cancelled its primary planned for yesterday due to the coronavirus. But with Florida, Illinois and Arizona running their primaries yesterday, predictably voters faced confusion, a shortage of poll workers, and shifting or closed polling stations. It’s clear that the way the rest of the campaign is going to be deeply affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The DNC is already urging a shift to vote-by-mail.

With bars, shops, and restaurants ordered shut across parts of the nation, it is impossible to see politics being business-as-usual for some time to come.

Yesterday Donald Trump was proclaiming that he knew it was a pandemic all along – just weeks after the president promised that the 15 cases of coronavirus in the US would soon go down to zero. There’s currently – as recorded by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering 6,496 confirmed coronavirus cases in the US, and the death toll has now exceeded 100.

It is understandably dominating today’s White House agenda. Trump has calls and meetings with the aerospace industry, physicians, nurses, and a quarterly business roundtable. The Coronavirus Task Force will be doing a morning briefing.

We’ll be tracking the responses to Biden’s win last night and political developments around the country here. There’s also our rolling live coverage of the global coronavirus outbreak over here with my colleague Alexandra Topping in London.

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US NEWS, World

Sanders pressured to exit in push for unity against twin threats: virus and Trump

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Sanders pressured to exit in push for unity against twin threats: virus and Trump” was written by David Smith in Washington, for The Guardian on Wednesday 18th March 2020 04.11 UTC

For more than three years it seemed impossible to millions of Americans that anything could be more important than voting for an alternative to Donald Trump.

Yet right now the US president is no longer seen as the most pressing threat to national security. The coronavirus crisis has temporarily turned the US presidential election into a sideshow.

It was Senator Bernie Sanders who compared it in scale to “a major war” and suggested it may result in more casualties than the US military suffered against Germany and Japan in the second world war.

Now Sanders, who suffered another drubbing in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries in Arizona, Florida and Illinois, is facing calls to make a gesture worthy of wartime and call it quits for the national good. “#DropOutBernie” is trending on Twitter.

By throwing his weight behind Biden, the argument goes, he would in effect be doing a Clement Attlee – the Labour leader who agreed to serve under his rival, Conservative Winston Churchill, in Britain’s coalition government when Sanders was born in 1941.

Such a gesture would ease fears over the primary elections themselves being a public health risk – rallies are off and Ohio postponed its vote at the last minute – and enable Biden to focus on the twin priorities of the coronavirus and Trump.

Sanders “would do public health and the party he has twice aspired to lead a big favor by acknowledging reality and leaving the race now”, David Byler, a data analyst and political columnist, wrote in the Washington Post.

“By officially making former vice-president Joe Biden the presumptive nominee, Sanders would free Democrats to make more rational decisions about how and when to hold their contests, and could free voters from making an impossible choice between casting their ballots and safeguarding their health.”

Supporters of this view point to simple maths. After the results of Tuesday night, Biden is more than 300 delegates ahead of Sanders, a virtually unassailable lead. Having never won a state in his first two runs for president, 77-year-old Biden is now racking them up. The virus only strengthens his case as the restorer of order and experience in a White House currently run chaotically by a TV star.

On Tuesday, as expected, Biden gained nearly two-thirds of the vote in the vital swing state of Florida, where Sanders’ recent comments in praise of the Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro’s literacy programme played badly. He also hammered the senator in Illinois by a bigger margin than Hillary Clinton managed in 2016, winning every county but one, and claimed Arizona to boot.

It has been a stunning turnaround since the dark days of Iowa and New Hampshire and is now all over bar the shouting.

The former vice-president evidently believes so. In remarks on Tuesday night that again lacked an audience for safety reasons, he said: “Senator Sanders and I may disagree on tactics, but we share a common vision – from the need to provide affordable healthcare for all Americans to reducing income inequality to taking on climate change.”

He added: “And let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders: I hear you. I know what is at stake. And I know what we have to do.”

Biden has already begun courting progressive voters by backing a version of Sanders’ plan to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for many students and Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to overhaul the consumer bankruptcy system.

Yet there are still reasons to believe that Sanders will refuse to wave the white flag. He kept going last Sunday for a head-to-head debate without an audience in a TV studio in Washington. On Tuesday, even as the grim results trickled in, he released his “coronavirus crisis principles” that “include at least trillion in funding to mobilize on a scale not seen since the New Deal and World War II to prevent deaths, job losses, and economic ruin”.

And no one in the Democratic party has forgotten Sanders’ tenacity/obstinacy – take your pick – in 2016 when he refused to surrender against Clinton. Back then, there was always the possibility that an FBI investigation into her poor email hygiene could scuttle her candidacy. There is no such shadow hanging over Biden.

A Sanders concession would not be simple, however. Some of his supporters never made peace with Clinton and would naturally reject Democratic National Committee pressure to wind up the election prematurely. Some are deeply sceptical of Biden as yet another centrist incrementalist who represents the past rather than the future. They will argue that not even the coronavirus should postpone the revolution.

Two dozen other candidates have come and gone, realising when it was the right moment to leave the stage. Now all eyes are on Sanders, with many entreating him to take his final bow from presidential politics.

The 78-year-old launched his first long-shot campaign at a hastily arranged press conference on a patch of grass known as the Senate swamp on Capitol Hill five years ago next month. He attracted only a small group of reporters; none could have guessed what a movement he would build.

It will be a movement in search of a new leader. And it is a movement whose support the Democratic party needs to beat Trump. The current president offers plenty of negative reasons to vote in November. Now Biden must offer enough positive ones.

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Health, World

Coronavirus live news: outbreak reaches every US state as Australia says measures could last six months

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Covid-19 outbreak like a nuclear explosion, says archbishop of Canterbury – as it happened” was written by Alison Rourke (now); Kevin Rawlinson ,Damien Gayle, and Helen Sullivan (earlier), for theguardian.com on Thursday 19th March 2020 00.35 UTC

12.34am GMT

That’s it from this blog for today. We’ve started a new liveblog where you can keep up to date with the very latest coronavirus pandemic news here:

11.54pm GMT

Iran to pardon 10,000 prisoners

Reuters is reporting that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will pardon 10,000 prisoners including political ones in honour of the Iranian new year on Friday, state TV reported.

“Those who will be pardoned will not return to jail … almost half of those security-related prisoners will be pardoned as well,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told state TV on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Esmaili said Iran had temporarily freed about 85,000 people from jail, including political prisoners, in response to the coronavirus epidemic.

“A large number of prisoners who have been temporarily freed do not need to return to jail after the leader’s pardon,” Esmaili said.

“The unprecedented point is that the pardon also includes the security-related prisoners with less than five-year jail sentences,” Esmaili said.

Esmaili did not say whether it would include British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was released on Tuesday for two weeks.

It’s also not clear if British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert would be pardoned. On Wednesday it was reported that she was not among the 85,000 prisoners temporarily released from Iranian jails.

Updated at 12.06am GMT

11.34pm GMT

Summary

Here’s a summary of the latest news:

You can see a summary of the day’s earlier events here.

11.26pm GMT

The Sushi fast food chain, YO! Sushi, has revealed that 54 of its restaurants will permanently close at the end of service on Wednesday.

In an email sent to employees seen by the Guardian, the company said that the decision had come “in light of the escalating uncertainty of Covid-19” and followed “some very difficult decisions”.

“Regrettably, we have had to take this action as it is clearly in the interests of public health to do so and there is nothing more important than that, in particular our responsibilities to the elderly and vulnerable,” the email said.

It currently unclear which restaurants will be included, but at least one branch in London is set to shut.

One employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “This is a lot to come to terms with. A week ago we were all talking about the future and what we can do with the restaurant, now we’re shut. It’s so much to process in such a short space of time.”

YO! Sushi has almost 100 restaurants operating across 8 countries, 70 of which are located in the UK.

Updated at 11.29pm GMT

11.24pm GMT

Australian markets rise slightly on opening

The Australian stock market has risen slightly in opening trade even though US markets again tumbled by between 5% and 6% overnight.

At about 10.15am the benchmark ASX200 index was up about 1.45%.

Before trade opened, Australian flagship carrier Qantas announced it was suspending all international flights from the end of the month and would be standing down two thirds of its 30,000-strong workforce without pay.

Qantas stock fell 4.35% in early trade.

Other companies also flooded the market with coronavirus-related bad news, with at least half a dozen withdrawing previous profit forecasts and others reporting slower sales.

11.22pm GMT

US cases pass 7,000, deaths 97

Still in the US and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its figures for Thursday 18 March. They are as follows:

  • Total cases: 7,038
  • Total deaths: 97
  • Jurisdictions reporting cases: 54 (50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and US Virgin Islands)

11.16pm GMT

US congressman tests positive to virus

A US congressman, Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican of Florida, has tested positive for coronavirus, he said in a statement. “I’m feeling much better,” he said. “However, it’s important that everyone take this seriously.”

11.12pm GMT

Tasmania in isolation

Tasmania is going into quarantine to prevent mainland Australians from spreading the virus.

It is the first time border controls have been introduced between Australian states, and a particularly extreme measure in a state whose economy relies heavily on tourism.

The Tasmanian premier, Peter Gutwein, told reporters in Hobart on Thursday that from midnight on Friday (AEDT), all arrivals to Tasmania — including Tasmanians returning home — will have to go into a 14-day mandatory self-isolation.

The only exception is for essential services, like health workers. The penalty for breaching this mandatory self-isolation is a fine of up to AUD,800 (£8,366) or six months jail. Gutwein said:

I think it is an extra layer of protection on Tasmanians. This will be, in Tasmania, the strongest border measures in the country in terms of the states and territories…

But I want to make it clear as well: any Tasmanian can still come home. If they come home after midnight on Friday, they will need to go into a two-week quarantine.

This is an extension of the rules on quarantine for people returning to Australia from overseas, which have applied nationally since Monday.

Updated at 11.14pm GMT

11.04pm GMT

Costa Rica announces first death

The Costa Rican health ministry has announced the country’s first death from Covid-19.

An 87-year-old man who was in intensive care in Alajuela, Costa Rica’s second largest city, died at 4:15pm (CST) on Wednesday.

The country’s president, Carlos Alvarado, expressed solidarity with the man’s family and urged Costa Ricans to react to the government’s social distancing advice.

The death comes as the Central American country announced its largest day-to-day rise in cases: up 19 to 69 on Wednesday.

Updated at 11.23pm GMT

11.01pm GMT

Mauritius has confirmed its first three cases of coronavirus, the island nation’s government has said.

It concerns three Mauritian nationals who have travelled back to Mauritius recently aged 21, 25 and 59 years, respectively. Two have worked on cruise ships and one is from the United Kingdom.

10.47pm GMT

UK to create 20,000-strong military anti-coronavirus force

The UK’s Ministry of Defence is to double the size of the military’s civil contingency unit to create a 20,000-strong Covid support force, my colleagues Haroon Siddique and Robert Booth write.

The country’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace, announced that an additional 10,000 troops are to be added to the 10,000 routinely held at higher readiness in case of a civil emergency – and reservists could also be called up.

Updated at 11.29pm GMT

10.42pm GMT

We reported earlier that the United Arab Emirates was suspending issuing all types of work permits. Now the state news agency, WAM, reports it is suspend entry of valid residence visa holders who are still abroad.

The measure is reportedly due to come into effect at noon on Thursday (GST) and will be in place for two weeks.

10.37pm GMT

Angela Hartnett’s Michelin-starred Murano restaurant in Mayfair, in central London, is the latest ‘fine-dining’ casualty of the coronavirus outbreak.

Chef and owner Hartnett has announced its closure in an email to customers:

We are sorry to say that with a heavy heart we will be closing our restaurant following a last service tonight. A huge thank you to our teams and suppliers for their personal support; they are amazing, and we will be back stronger together. We look forward to welcoming then, with more pasta than you could possibly eat…

The upmarket department store Harrods has announced reduced opening hours and closed all its restaurants to protect its customers and its 5,000 staff. Restaurants that are staying open – with few customers – are offering takeaway services.

Jace Tyrrell, the chief executive of New West End Company that represents 600-plus retailers and businesses across London’s West End, said:

As we collectively face down the challenge of Covid-19, tough decisions need to be taken to prioritise the safety of staff and customers.

Over the coming days, we expect to see more businesses take pragmatic decisions to reduce opening hours and temporarily close their doors to provide long–term protection for employees and balance sheets.

10.32pm GMT

Coronavirus like a nuclear explosion, says senior clergyman

The pandemic is like a nuclear explosion – bringing a huge initial impact and a fallout that will last for years and shape the nation’s future in unforeseeable ways, the archbishop of Canterbury has warned.

Speaking at Westminster, Justin Welby welcomed the “war budget commitment” made by the government to shore up the struggling economy.

But the top Anglican cleric stressed the need for the “enormous and unprecedented” financial support to benefit the entire country and not just the big cities.

The crisis through which we are passing will change this nation in deep and unpredictable ways.

Like a nuclear explosion, the initial impact is colossal but the fallout last for years and will shape us in ways we can’t even begin to predict at the moment.

We will overcome the virus. Small groups all over the country are showing fresh signs of community spirit and collaboration. It is from those small groups through to the large scale government measures that things will change.

But, during a crisis, keeping the long term direction is as important as tackling the short term problem. The enormous package package of short-terms measures is by its very size sufficient to raise hope and for that it is welcome. 15% of GDP is a war budget commitment.

The obvious question is how will it be distributed. How will it be used in a way that’s effective. If we are to put confidence as the aim and people at the centre, the distribution, the impact must be both swift enough and imaginative enough to maintain confidence right across the economy, not only in the big cities with their own self-sustaining economy, but in the myriad of towns and smaller communities across the country.

For many of these there has been decline for many years. Covid-19 may well be the last straw for some.

Updated at 10.48pm GMT

10.27pm GMT

Employees of Air Canada, the country’s largest airline, have said the company is not doing enough to inform customers and staff of their exposure to passengers infected with Covid-19.

And, as more flight attendants test positive for the coronavirus, there are growing fears in the company ranks that the risk to flight attendants is higher than previously acknowledged.

10.22pm GMT

Why are UK schools closing now and what does it mean for parents? My colleague Sally Weale has the answers to those and other questions:

10.12pm GMT

Air Canada is gradually suspending the majority of its international and US trans-border flights by 31 March in response to the pandemic, Reuters reports.

The company says it intends to continue serving all provinces and territories of Canada, but will reduce its domestic network to 40 airports from 62 in April.

10.09pm GMT

Most UK freelancers working in the creative industries are afraid they will not be able to pay their bills because of the work they have lost due to coronavirus, a study suggests.

A survey of 5,600 people by the broadcasting union Bectu found almost half had already lost money because of the outbreak.

Almost 500 said they had lost more than £5,000 each, while estimates for future loss of earnings were difficult because of the uncertainty about the length of potential disruption. More than 100 of those surveyed feared they were facing losing more than £40,000.

The union’s head, Philippa Childs, said:

Bectu can’t emphasise enough how urgently we need the government to act. This survey started just after the Budget announcement. We have since had another update from the chancellor but still nothing for freelancers, the self-employed and those on zero-hours contracts.

10.04pm GMT

Having announced that UK schools will remain open to supervise children of “key workers,” questions remain over who will qualify.

Some obvious candidates have been mentioned by the government, principally NHS workers, but the potential list is very long. Paul Tarn, the chief executive of the Delta Academies Trust that runs 50 schools, says the government needs to make clear who will be included:

We at Delta have been on the frontline of this crisis and have been proud to keep our schools open to care for and feed children – and we will continue to do so as we rise to this unprecedented challenge with a comprehensive offer of support.

However, we hope the government or local authorities will issue emergency childcare certificates to those who will qualify as key workers under the new definition.

This would help schools by not placing them in the position of having to rule on whether a parent and their child qualifies for the care.

Dave Prentis, Unison’s general secretary, has similar concerns:

Ensuring schools can stay open for children with parents on the front line fighting the pandemic is necessary. But this must apply to all workers with jobs in essential and emergency services, from hospital cleaners and porters, to 111 call handlers and social care staff.

9.56pm GMT

In Ireland, the chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, has praised the “extraordinary” observance of social distancing steps.

In relation to the social distancing measures that have been put place, I think we have seen an extraordinary level of compliance on the part of the public. The public are listening and behaving responsibly.

The senior medic said it was too early to tell what impact it was having on the number of cases diagnosed, but he said a clearer picture should emerge in the coming weeks.

He acknowledged that potential public fatigue with the measures could become a challenge if they continue for an extended period.

Dr Holohan particularly urged young people to think of their older relatives and the impact the virus could have on them when observing the restrictions on their daily lives. He said the projection of 15,000 diagnoses in Ireland by the end of the month was in an “unmitigated” situation.

In other words, if the disease continues to spread through the population with no impactive measures, like social distancing measures, that’s the kind of growth trajectory we’d expect.

So we’d be hopeful that what we will actually observe will be a lower number of cases on the basis that we have seen some success as a result of our social distancing measures.

Updated at 9.57pm GMT

9.53pm GMT

Slovenia plans to introduce quarantine from Friday to slow down the spread of the virus, its interior minister Ales Hojs has told national television.

He said people will still be able to go to work, pharmacies or food shops but all socialising in open spaces will be prohibited. The country has so far confirmed 286 coronavirus cases, of which one person died while six are in intensive care.

9.49pm GMT

The medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is preparing to set up activities in and around Paris to help detect and manage Covid-19 cases among the most vulnerable populations, it has said.

The organisation is more commonly associated with responding to medical emergencies in war zones. Its deputy operations director, Pierre Mendiharat, said:

In the context of the coronavirus epidemic, we are particularly concerned about the fate of people in precarious situations. If nothing is done to detect and isolate cases, the virus risks spreading among these groups particularly quickly.

Our response in France is very similar to initiatives MSF has already launched in other countries such as Italy, for example, and those which our teams may develop in the coming weeks.

9.43pm GMT

Bloomberg is reporting that Tesla, which has thus far resisted an order from the local authorities to close down its US assembly plant in the interest of public health, is now preparing to reduce staffing by about 75%.

9.33pm GMT

Egypt has reported 14 new coronavirus cases, its health ministry has said, bringing the total number of confirmed cases up to 210. The country has so far reported six coronavirus-related deaths.

9.30pm GMT

Ireland’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre has reported 74 new confirmed cases of Covid-19. The cases, which are made up of 29 females and 45 males, bring the total number of coronavirus cases in Ireland to 366.

9.25pm GMT

Another senior Brazilian political figure has tested positive.

Davi Alcolumbre, the head of the country’s Senate, is without severe symptoms, but feels a little sick and is in quarantine at home, his office has said, adding that an initial test was negative, but a second one was positive.

9.21pm GMT

The United Arab Emirates is suspending issuing all types of work permits, starting on Thursday and until further notice, the state news agency (WAM) reports. The decision excludes internal transportation permits and employment permits for Expo 2020, WAM adds.

9.14pm GMT

The British ambassador to Spain has corrected an earlier statement, saying now that the Spanish government has not given formal orders for hotels and short-stay accommodation in the country to shut their doors.

Nearly 600 people have died in Spain in recent weeks and cases of coronavirus have surged to 13,716, leaving the country battling an epidemic that ranks among the worst in Europe.

In an earlier video, Elliott said the Spanish government had ordered the closure of hotels over the next seven days.

A Spanish government source said that, while the closure of hotels was included in the emergency measures imposed on Saturday, there is no firm date by which they must shut their doors. Hotels are not accepting any new reservations but continue to attend to guests who are already on the premises, the source added.

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it expected hotels, short-stay campsites and caravan parks in Spain to close “in the coming days.” The measures are not expected to apply to long-term accommodation, it added.

9.10pm GMT

Staying in the UK – the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has written to the prime minister with three demands:

  1. That legislation placing restrictions on people’s daily lives be brought before MPs for renewal every six months.
  2. That a “comprehensive income protection scheme” be put in place that includes “European-level statutory sick pay for all workers from day one”, including other measures.
  3. That rent suspensions and a ban on evictions be introduced for six months.

9.04pm GMT

The former Manchester United footballer, Gary Neville, has said the 176 beds in his two hotels will be handed over to medical staff who need to isolate themselves from their families for free from Friday.

The businesses will be closed to the public, though staff will continue to operate the hotels for the health workers. And Neville promised that no employee would be made redundant or asked to take unpaid leave.

8.58pm GMT

US and Canadian leaders have stressed the importance of keeping trade flowing, even as they announce travel restrictions to combat the pandemic

The White House has said Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau held talks on the need for “close cooperation on efforts to combat the virus, including the agreement to reduce movement across the United States-Canada border to essential travel only”.

President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau agreed it was important to preserve supply chains and trade, regardless of travel restrictions.

8.41pm GMT

Oxfam is closing its 600 high street shops from Saturday, it has announced. The charity said the decision was made to “protect the health of its staff, volunteers and customers”, adding its online store would remain open. Its deputy trading director, Anne Webb, said:

It is with a heavy heart that we have decided to shut our shops until the danger of the coronavirus has eased.

But it’s absolutely the right thing to do as the safety of our staff, volunteers and shoppers comes first. Some of our volunteers are elderly, and especially vulnerable to the infection, and we are acutely conscious of our responsibilities towards them.

8.39pm GMT

A second person – a 61-year-old man – has died in Turkey, the country’s health minister has announced. Fahrettin Koca said the number of confirmed cases has nearly doubled to 191 from 98 a day earlier.

8.34pm GMT

The London Underground’s 24-hour weekend night Tube service is closing with immediate effect.

The move will help restrict non-essential travel to bars and restaurants, as the prime minister contemplates a crackdown. It also comes among increased staff anger at the risk of working on Tube lines at night to serve passengers ignoring public health advice to avoid gatherings.

The service operates on Friday and Saturday nights on the Northern, Central and Victoria lines, as well as parts of the London Overground. The Waterloo and City line will also be suspended from Thursday night in response to declining demand and staff availability.

8.33pm GMT

Another Brazilian minister has tested positive for Covid-19, the country’s president Jair Bolsonaro has announced.

The energy minister, Admiral Bento Albuquerque, is the second government minister to contract the virus. The institutional security minster General Augusto Heleno’s first test was positive, while the press secretary Fabio Wajngarten has also become infected.

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro hosted a press conference on the pandemic flanked by nine ministers and top officials – all wearing masks which they removed when talking.

He attacked the media, called Tuesday’s home-based, pan-bashing protests against him “an expression of democracy” and defended defying medical advice to mingle with demonstrators last Sunday.

As “leader of Brazilian nation, I have to be at the front together with my people,” said Bolsonaro, a former army captain.

But he did little to assuage fears the pandemic could overwhelm Brazil’s health service when he said it “is unable to accept a considerable quantity” of people sick with Covid-19. Brazilian states have reported 393 confirmed cases. The defence minister, General Fernando Azevedo e Silva, said:

This is a war, against an invisible, ferocious and unwavering enemy. Brazilians can depend on the armed forces.

The health minister, Luiz Mandetta, warned of “tough days” ahead, explaining that reducing the challenge ahead from the size of Mount Everest to a more scaleable Brazilian mountain demanded the cooperation of the population.

8.27pm GMT

Costa Rica has recorded its largest single day rise in confirmed cases, spiking from 50 on Tuesday to 69 on Wednesday. The ages of known Covid-19 patients range from 8 years old to 87 in the Central American country.

In an emotional message, the country’s health minister Daniel Salas pleaded with Costa Ricans to stay away from public spaces and take the government’s social distancing policies seriously.

You who are listening and hearing this message: please, react. React. Don’t go to public places … This is not something minor, we’re talking about people’s lives.

Updated at 8.28pm GMT

8.25pm GMT

The UK’s transport secretary has met with airline representatives to try to work out how to get stranded citizens home amid a host of border closures around the world.

Grant Shapps also said the Department for Transport and the Treasury are working on a plan to support the struggling industry. Tim Alderslade, the chief executive Airlines UK, has said:

The promise from government to step in with a bespoke package of support for aviation to get us through the coming months is therefore very welcome and we are currently working with ministers to go through the detail of what this might entail and hope an announcement will be made in the coming days.

In the meantime, we are working round the clock to bring home passengers stranded overseas and will continue with these efforts. And we do urge passengers to check their airline’s website and where there are options to come home take them as soon as they can.

8.18pm GMT

People are being reminded to get some exercise despite the UK government’s call for the country to be largely put into lockdown.

The chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty said it was important that both children and adults still take exercise while in social isolation.

Being outside in the park is a very good thing to do and taking exercise is always a good thing to do – the thing we are trying to avoid is people meeting up unnecessarily or having unnecessary social contact.

Going to the park, yes. Crowding together with lots of people for a long time, that is the kind of thing we would rather people did not do.

Asked if it was safe for a few people to kick a ball about, Prof
Whitty said:

If it is in the open air and people are keeping their distance, then we would certainly want people to continue to enjoy themselves.

He said the UK was in for the “long haul” in terms of social distancing measures.

We’ve described it as a marathon not a sprint and we do have to be able to do things over many weeks to months if we are going to seriously get on top of this epidemic that is heading our way.

8.07pm GMT

The head of a major children’s charity has stressed the importance of school time to keeping children safe after the government announced vulnerable children would be exempt from its schools closure plan.

Anna Edmundson, the head of policy and public affairs at the children’s charity NSPCC, said:

The government has clearly acknowledged the need to keep children safe from abuse and neglect during this national health emergency.

Teachers act as the eyes and ears for the community and have a vital role in ensuring children receive the right protection. Therefore, it is encouraging that the most vulnerable young people will continue to go to school to find safety and support.

But the process needs to be carried out with care and sensitivity to avoid children feeling as though they are being singled out. It is also important to recognise that this is not black and white as there will be children that are vulnerable to abuse but fall outside this process.

At the NSPCC, we will be looking closely at the detail of the plans and we look forward to discussing how they will work in practice with the government.

Updated at 8.09pm GMT

8.05pm GMT

Baltic states have deployed ships, a train and a plane to repatriate hundreds of citizens stuck at the border between Germany and Poland after Warsaw banned foreign nationals over the coronavirus, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reports.

A ship from Germany docked at the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda Wednesday, hours after a train arrived in the central city of Kaunas, said Aldona Griniene; a spokeswoman for the nation’s transport ministry.

Vilnius also sent a military transport plane to airlift dozens of people from Germany who were unable to cross into Poland earlier this week. More ships are scheduled in the coming days, AFP reports.

7.50pm GMT

The Queen carried out her weekly audience with the prime minister on the phone. Boris Johnson was due to have a face-to-face meeting with the monarch at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday. The Palace confirmed the audience took place by telephone.

7.45pm GMT

Zuckerberg also defended Facebook’s position on coronavirus misinformation, saying he didn’t view the site’s clampdown as an attack on free speech – but that it didn’t mean the site should take the same tack about political misinformation.

Even in the most free expression-friendly jurisdictions like the US, you’ve long had the precedent that you don’t let people yell ‘fire’ in a crowded room, and I think that’s similar to people spreading dangerous misinformation in a situation like this.

Facebook is crucial in times of social distancing, Zuckerberg argued, noting that he himself was now working from home and limiting contact with others.

We want to make sure we can do our part to alleviate loneliness and help people come together.

To that end, the company is going to roll out a feature designed to encourage the sort of grassroots organising that the site has already seen.

We’ve had a community help feature that we’ve rolled out in other disasters in the past, like if there’s a hurricane. We’ve never had to do it at a scale that we’re talking about doing here – for everyone basically across the whole community at the same time. But we’re going to move forward with that in the next few days as well.

7.44pm GMT

Facebook is launching a new coronavirus “information centre” at the top of every newsfeed and every Instagram feed, its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has said.

As with current warnings on the social network, the centre will be filled with information from national health services. But it will also have articles videos and posts aimed at encouraging social distancing and preventing the spread of the virus.

It launches tomorrow in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the US. Zuckerberg said:

We’ve been co-ordinating with governments across the world to ask what sort of messages we should be putting out, and the consensus right now is social distancing.

So a big part of this will be about showing content from public health experts, celebrities, visual journalists, and so on, that will be encouraging the right behaviour on this.

7.41pm GMT

The United States is suspending all routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa services as of Wednesday in most countries worldwide due to the pandemic, a State Department spokeswoman has said.

She did not clarify which or how many countries are halting services, but said US missions abroad will continue to provide emergency visa services “as resources allow” – and that the services to US citizens will remain available. Missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible, the spokeswoman said, without giving a date.

Meanwhile, in New York, the governor has announced new controls:

7.24pm GMT

Two more people have died in Brazil, the Sao Paulo state health authority has announced. That brings the death toll in the country to three. The two people were 65 and 80 years old, the Sao Paulo Health Secretariat said.

And the country’s health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, said more restrictive measures may be needed, as he acknowledged that the number of cases in Brazil was worse than the official tally of 291 suggested because a significant number have not yet been counted.

7.19pm GMT

In the UK, the shadow foreign minister Lloyd Russell-Moyle has announced he’s tested positive.

In a Facebook post, the Labour MP for Kemptown and Peacehaven said he received the test results this afternoon – after six days of waiting.

I’ve just been informed by my doctor that I have tested positive to Covid-19. I felt symptoms last Wednesday, immediately self-isolated and called 111. I had a home visit and was tested on Thursday, this was the last day of community testing.

I received the result this afternoon after six days of waiting. If we are serious about the WHO advice of ‘Test, Test, Test’ then we need to do better than this.

7.09pm GMT

Windsor Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Royal Mews and the Queen’s Galleries in London and Edinburgh are to all close their doors to visitors.

The Royal Collection Trust announced the tourist attractions would shut temporarily from Saturday. Royal Collection shops will also close as a precaution because of the pandemic. Refunds will be issued to those who have pre-booked tickets, the trust said.

Updated at 7.09pm GMT

7.03pm GMT

In the UK, manufacturers of hand sanitisers and gels are to have their applications for the alcohol needed for production fast-tracked, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has said.

Demand for such products has increased sharply since the outbreak; leading to some shortages. But current rules mean any manufacturer wanting to make the products must put in applications for using denatured alcohol, like ethanol, which takes 45 working days. HMRC has said it will pushing them through in five days instead.

Updated at 7.06pm GMT

7.01pm GMT

As many as 24,000 former healthcare workers have contacted the Irish health service to offer their help after the country’s government issued a call to arms.

Retired doctors, nurses, therapists and university students with sufficient skills to register with the health service have been calling in, Reuters reports.

The health minister, Simon Harris, has promised there will be no financial limits to the recruitment programme and no constraint on the numbers to be hired, telling prospective candidates: “Your country needs you.”

6.57pm GMT

In the UK, education authorities are trying to work out how to live up to the prime minister’s promise that qualifications will be delivered despite end-of-year exams being cancelled.

Clare Marchant, the chief executive of the university admissions service Ucas, has said:

We will be working through the implications of today’s announcements for students, teachers, universities and colleges over the coming days, which was one of the scenarios we were planning for.

Flexibility within the admission process will be enhanced and extended to deal with the coronavirus outbreak and the announcement that there will be no exams this year.

We are confident that our team and systems are ready to adapt throughout the spring and summer.

We will continue to work closely with colleagues across the education sector including Ofqual, the Department for Education, the Scottish government, Office for Students and Universities UK.

As soon as any changes are confirmed, students will be emailed to explain how this might affect them, so it’s important they keep their email address up to date in Track.

We will also communicate further and extend support to all of customers during these challenging times.

6.54pm GMT

Germany is expanding entry restrictions to include flights from Italy, Spain, Austria, France, Luxembourg, Denmark and Switzerland, the interior ministry has said.

The new entry restrictions also apply to sea transport from Denmark, according to an interior ministry spokesman.

6.51pm GMT

Reuters is reporting that two World Bank Group employees in Washington DC have been diagnosed with Covid-19. It cited a memo to workers from the World Bank Group’s president, David Malpass.

According to the report, Malpass said the diagnoses marked the first cases at the World Bank and its sister organisations, but further cases could be diagnosed in the coming days and weeks.

Both the Bank and the International Monetary Fund have advised their headquarters staff and contractors to work from home after an employee of the latter was diagnosed with Covid-19.

6.48pm GMT

Norway will spend all that’s needed to protect jobs and companies during the coronavirus outbreak, its prime minister Erna Solberg has said.

We’re willing to do whatever it takes, and together with parliament spend the money that is necessary to secure people’s jobs and safeguard Norwegian companies, big as well as small.

6.46pm GMT

First deaths in Pakistan

Pakistan has confirmed its first deaths from coronavirus as the total number of infected patients in the country climbed to 260. The first death was reported in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where so far 19 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed.

Updated at 6.46pm GMT

6.40pm GMT

The virus is spreading rapidly in France, Prof Jérôme Salomon, director of the French health authority, has said.

There are 9,134 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in France, and there have been 264 deaths – an increase of 89 in the last 24 hours. Of those infected, 2,626 are in hospital; 931 of them in intensive care, half of whom are under 60 years old.

There are still lots of people in the streets with masks and we can understand their worry … but it is completely useless for those in the the streets. Only health workers and their patients need to wear masks. There is not sense in others wearing masks.

Everyone who has masks for different reasons, if you have a stock of masks that you are not using please given them to health clinics, hospitals or even your local pharmacy who will pass them on to health workers.

Salomon thanked the Chinese authorities who had given France one million masks.

France has carried out 4,000 tests today (42,000 since the beginning of the epidemic).

The fine for ignoring the order to stay at home was raised to €135 (£126.11) on Wednesday and those fined were told it would rise to €375 if not paid within seven days.

In and around Paris, the police and gendarmes reported they had stopped 10,000 people and verified if they had the necessary documents allowing them to be out.

The French health minister, Olivier Véran, said most people come into contact with around 50 people per day in normal circumstances. He called on everyone to reduce this to five people.

The prime minister, Edouard Philippe, said the government was to introduce a “health state of emergency”. The legal move would allow the government to “adapt our legal rules in a very temporary manner to take into account the particular situation caused by the epidemic”, Philippe said.

6.37pm GMT

Angela Merkel has called the pandemic “the biggest challenge since World War Two” as she appealed to German citizens to help protect each other from the virus by restricting their social interactions.

In her first televised address to the nation in 14 years as chancellor – outside her annual New Year’s address – Merkel warned that all state-run attempts to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus would prove futile unless individuals changed their personal behaviour.

“This is serious, so take it seriously,” the German chancellor said in pre-recorded remarks that will go out on German television just before tonight’s main news programmes.

Since German reunification, no, since the Second World War there has been no challenge to our country that will require us to act in mutual solidarity.

Merkel said her government was focused on the main goal of “slowing down the spread of the virus, to stretch it out over months and thus win time”, which could be used to research a vaccine and avoid overwhelming the German health service.

Earlier in the day, state and federal leaders announced their intention to double the country’s number of intensive respiratory care beds. Germany currently has around 25,000 intensive care beds with respiratory capacity.

6.34pm GMT

Greek health authorities have announced there are now 418 confirmed cases in the country; an increase of 31 over the last 24 hours. Of that number, 79 are hospitalised – with 13 in critical condition, Prof Sotiris Tsiodras, the health ministry’s Covid-19 spokesman told reporters.

Those afflicted had an average age of around 70 years, he said, adding that people should continue to stay in doors.

“All of us must consider ourselves as carriers of the virus.” But, sounding a note of optimism, the infectious disease expert said doctors, worldwide, were now focused on finding a cure and the results of research and clinical tests in China, where a new drug had been tried out on 340 patients from Wuhan and Shenzhen, were “encouraging.”

The deputy minister of civil protection, Nikos Hardalias, who is coordinating government efforts to combat the disease and was also attending the briefing, said a blanket ban on groups of more than 10 people would be brought into effect tomorrow, in what has become the latest emergency measure to curb the spread of the novel virus in Greece.

A fine of €1,000 (£934.72) will be meted out to anyone caught violating the new law, he said.

While the centre right government has resisted imposing a curfew, Hardalias insisted that movement should be strictly limited. People could leave their homes to go to work, see a doctor, get provisions wherever delivery wasn’t possible, or go to a bank, post office or petrol station.

They could also go out for exercise in small groups but only if they kept a strict kept a distance from one another. Pets could also be taken out.

6.31pm GMT

Israel’s government has announced it will deny entry to any person who is neither a citizen or living in the country, shutting off the state almost entirely.

Tourists and visitors were previously allowed to enter if they could prove they had a suitable place to self-isolate for 14 days, such as an apartment. As of Wednesday, according to the Population and Immigration Authority, that exception will no longer apply.

Beginning today, the entrance of foreigners will not be allowed into Israel, even if they can prove they could remain in quarantine.

The country, where there are around 430 confirmed cases, has taken stringent measures to contain the spread, including shutting down all schools, cafes and malls. On Tuesday, the government approved a controversial measure to track people suspected or confirmed to have been infected by monitoring their phones.

6.29pm GMT

Ireland’s banks are to grant a three-month payment pause to mortgage holders impacted by coronavirus.

The decision followed a week of pressure from the Irish government which told banks to show compassion and bail out the public just as taxpayers helped the country’s lenders during the financial crash in 2010.

People struggling to pay their mortgage – a likelihood given hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk – are being told to contact their bank to discuss options.

The finance minister, Paschal Donohue, made the announcement after meeting the five chief executives of retail banks and the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland.

He said the banks also agreed to defer loan repayments for business, extend credit guarantees and raise the maximum that can be spent on contactless cards to €50 (£46.78).

6.27pm GMT

Summary

  • At least 8,248 people have died as a result of the pandemic, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The number of cases across the world reached 207,518, of which 82,104 have recovered.
  • Italy recorded the highest Covid-19 death toll in a single day anywhere since the outbreak began, with a further 475 deaths from the virus bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 2,978.
  • The UK education secretary, Gavin Williamson, told the Commons schools would not reopen after Friday for most pupils, but said the most vulnerable children and those of key workers would still be able to go in.
  • The announcement came after the death toll in UK surged to 104 as it was confirmed 32 more people had died in England. NHS England said all were over 59 and had underlying health conditions.
  • More countries went into lockdown to curb the spread of the virus, including Belgium, Greece, Portugal and Chile. Steps were also taken to limit travel in North America and in West Africa.
  • Donald Trump said he would invoke a federal provision allowing him to take control of the private sector. The US president signed the act giving himself authority to direct industrial production “in case we need it”.
  • The number of cases in New York City increased by 695 to 1,339 in 24 hours, according to the state governor, Andrew Cuomo. Across New York state, there had been 2,382 cases, he said.
  • Ryanair said “most if not all” flights would be cancelled after next Tuesday. The Irish airline expects to run a “very small number of flights for essential connectivity”, mainly between the UK and Ireland.
  • Iran reported its single biggest daily rise in deaths from coronavirus on Wednesday, saying that a further 147 had died in a nearly 15% increase that raises the death toll to 1,135 people nationwide.
  • Burkina Faso announced the first known Covid-19 death in sub-Saharan Africa. The country has confirmed 27 cases and it is suspected that at least 200 more people have the disease.

That’s it from me, Damien Gayle, for the day. I’ll leave you in the capable hands of Kevin Rawlinson.

6.05pm GMT

Singapore reported 47 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, of which 33 were imported from overseas, taking the total in the country 313, Channel News Asia reports.

Thirty of the new cases were found in returning Singapore residents, who included citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders.

Singapore authorities have been starkly critical of the approach taken by other countries, particularly the UK, Switzerland and Japan, in tackling the virus. Soon after it was first detected in China, the city state took strenuous measures to contain the spread of the virus.

Nineteen of the new cases had a travel history to Europe, while six had bee in north America.

So far the country has had 117 recoveries from the virus, while 196 remain in hospital – 15 in a critical condition in intensive care.

5.56pm GMT

Greek health authorities have announced there are now 418 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, an increase of 31 over the last 24 hours. Of that number 79 are hospitalised with 13 in critical condition, professor Sotiris Tsiodras, the health ministry’s Covid-19 spokesman told reporters.

Those afflicted had an an average age of around 70 years he said, adding that people should continue to stay in doors.

All of us must consider ourselves as carriers of the virus.

But sounding a note of optimism, the infectious disease expert said doctors, world-wide, were now focused on finding a cure and the results of research and clinical tests in China, where a new drug had been tried out on 340 patients from Wuhan and Shenzhen, were “encouraging.”

A dog walks along an empty street in Nafplio, Greece, on Wednesday
A dog walks along an empty street in Nafplio, Greece, on Wednesday
Photograph: Vangelis Bougiotis/EPA

The deputy minister of civil protection Nikos Hardalias, who is coordinating government efforts to combat the disease and was also attending the briefing, said as of tomorrow a blanket ban on groups of more than ten people would be brought into effect, in what has become the latest emergency measure to curb the spread of the novel virus in Greece.

A fine of 1,000 euro will be meted out to anyone caught violating the new law, he said. While the centre right government has resisted imposing a curfew, Hardalias insisted that movement should be strictly limited.

People could leave their homes to go to work, see a doctor, get provisions wherever delivery wasn’t possible or go to a bank and petrol station. They could also go out for exercise in small groups but only if they kept a strict kept a distance from one another.

Pets could also be taken out.

5.39pm GMT

Italy posts one-day Covid-19 death toll record

The coronavirus death toll in Italy has increased by 475, the highest number so far recorded any country in a single day, according to the latest figures from the Civil Protection Agency.

In total the death toll from the virus in the country, the worst affected in Europe by the outbreak, has now reached 2,978 – an increase of 19%, Reuters reported.

The total number of cases in Italy, the European country hardest hit by the virus, rose to 35,713 from a previous 31,506, up 13.35%

Of those originally infected, 4,025 had fully recovered compared to 2,941 the day before. Some 2,257 people were in intensive care against a previous 2,060.

Updated at 5.50pm GMT

5.34pm GMT

Coronavirus pandemic could cost 25m jobs

Up to 25 million jobs could be lost worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation (ILO) has warned.

The ILO said that in the worst case scenario, Covid-19 could cause more unemployment than the global economic crisis of 2008.

Its most optimistic assessment of the impact of the outbreak was that 5.3m jobs would be lost. In the bleakest scenario that would rise to 24.7m job losses.

The crisis would also increase the number of working people in poverty by between 8.8 million and 35 million, in the best and worst scenarios respectively.

The ILO called for urgent measures at a national and global level to minimise the level of unemployment caused by the virus. It said this must be based on protecting workers’ rights, stimulating the economy and employment, and supporting jobs and incomes.

Updated at 5.38pm GMT

5.33pm GMT

The UK announces it is closing schools to curb virus spread

Boris Johnson has announced that UK schools will close, after days of pressure and the announcement of the closure of schools in Wales and Scotland earlier today.

The prime minister said there is a need to apply further pressure on the upward curve of the disease. He refused to say how long he thought closures would last.

Updated at 5.53pm GMT

5.20pm GMT

Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, is about to begin his daily address to the nation on the latest developments in his government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Our UK live blog will be covering the briefing in detail.

5.13pm GMT

Trump signs bill to take control of private sector

Donald Trump, the United States president, has announced that he will invoke a federal provision that allows the government to marshal the private sector in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press reports.

Trump, now describing himself as a wartime president, said he would sign the Defense Production Act “in case we need it” as the government bolsters resources for an expected surge in cases of the virus.

The Defense Production Act gives the president powers to direct domestic industrial production to provide essential materials and goods needed in a national security crisis.

It allows the president to require businesses and corporations to prioritise and accept contracts for required materials and services. It also allows the president to provide incentives for the domestic industrial base to expand the production and supply of critical materials and goods, according to a March 2 report by the Congressional Research Service.

Trump also said he will expand the nation’s testing capacity and deploy a Navy hospital ship to New York City, which is rapidly becoming the centre of a pandemic that has rattled the U.S. economy and rewritten the rules of American society.

A second ship will be deployed to the West Coast.

5.07pm GMT

Cuba has come to the rescue of a British cruise ship rejected by port officials across the Caribbean for weeks, allowing more than 1,000 people on board ashore, including five confirmed to be infected with coronavirus.

The Associated Press reports that the Braemar arrived in the port of Mariel early on Wednesday morning, with medical workers in protective gear taking passengers from the ship to Jose Marti international airport.

The British cruise ship MS Braemar, with five cases of COVID-19 and more than a thousand people on board, docks in the early hours of Wednesday in the port of Mariel, in the province of Artemisa, Cuba
The British cruise ship MS Braemar, with five cases of COVID-19 and more than a thousand people on board, docks in the early hours of Wednesday in the port of Mariel, in the province of Artemisa, Cuba
Photograph: Atahualpa Amerise/EPA

Sailing the Caribbean since late February, the Braemar had already been turned away by the Dominican Republic, Barbados and the Bahamas. Cuba said it is allowing the passengers to transit as an act of humanitarian solidarity.

Ramón Castillo, head of the company of pilots of ports of the Republic of Cuba, told a press conference:

We were asked to carry out a humanitarian, safe and fast operation; Based on these three premises, the plan that we are fulfilling this morning was designed.

Operations are carried out safely by personnel with proven competence and their qualifications as established by international regulations

Most of the 682 passengers were expected to arrive in London on Thursday morning on planes chartered by Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, while those with the coronavirus or flu-like symptoms were being flown to a British military base on a separate plane.

It comes as Cuba announced its first death from the coronavirus, a 61-year-old Italian tourist who was one of 10 confirmed cases on the island.

4.41pm GMT

If you are following the latest coronavirus updates and you want to watch the World Health Organisation press conference hit ‘play’ on the player at the top of the blog to see the live feed.

4.37pm GMT

The World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is telling Africa “to prepare for the worst and prepare today” as he holds a press conference on the latest developments on the global coronavirus pandemic.

4.35pm GMT

32 more people die in England, bringing UK death toll to 104

The coronavirus death toll in the UK has reached 104 after NHS England said a further 32 people had died in England after testing positive.

This brings the total number of confirmed reported deaths in England to 99. The patients were aged between 59 and 94 years old and had underlying health conditions.

Follow the UK coronavirus liveblog for more details:

4.24pm GMT

Portugal declares state of emergency

The president of Portugal has declared a state of emergency over the spread of Covid-19, subject to approval by the country’s parliament.

The country has 642 confirmed cases of Covid-19 so far, and two patients have died, according to a Reuters tally. The number of cases has risen by 194 since Monday.

The Portuguese victims of the virus include the president of the board of directors of Santander Portugal, António Vieira Monteiro, who was hospitalised after returning from a holiday in Italy.

Two of his children have also been diagnosed with Covid-19.

The first victim, Mário Veríssimo, an 80-year-old former masseur, died on Monday.

4.06pm GMT

Here’s the latest public service announcement from Arnold Schwarzenegger, who says he will now start to publish daily videos on exercises that older people can do at home to stay fit.

3.56pm GMT

Uruguay has reported 50 cases of coronavirus, a disproportionately large amount for this small South American nation of under 3.5 million inhabitants. (Argentina, next door, with a population of 45 million, has only 79 reported cases).

Doctors are talking of an “explosive growth” in numbers, say local press reports, after the first four cases were reported only last Friday.

About 20 of the cases have been traced back to a single socialite from the capital city of Montevideo who went to a 500-guest wedding the same night after she returned from Spain on 7 March.

A man wearsg a mask as a precaution as he walks by the beach in Montevideo, Uruguay
A man wearsg a mask as a precaution as he walks by the beach in Montevideo, Uruguay, on Tuesday.
Photograph: Matilde Campodonico/AP

The woman in question, Carmela Hontou, who has been diagnosed with the virus, has been giving interviews defending her assistance and adding that she also had lunch with her 84-year-old mother upon arrival and went to a lunch the next day “where there were also a lot of people.”

Asked by a reporter if she didn’t consider it unwise to mingle in large crowds, given her situation, Hontou answered: “That’s ridiculous, plus, do you know how many people came in that plane?”

Audio WhatsApp messages by friends of the woman and other wedding guests have circulated widely in Uruguay, expressing disbelief and anger at her attitude. The authorities have also intervened in the case of Hontou’s two sons, after security guards at her building reported to the authorities Tuesday that they have been allegedly visiting their mother and then going about their business as usual in Montevideo.

Uruguay is awaiting the delivery of 20,000 test kits to deal with the situation, say press reports. Although some private clinics have kits, the government clinic that centralizes results is reportedly working with a five-day delay before confirming cases.

The only nation with legal marijuana in Latin America, and with legal abortion, apart from Cuba, has not yet imposed a nationwide quarantine, although the SMU Uruguayan doctor’s union has asked the government for this and other drastic measures to contain the spread.

Uruguay has meanwhile suspended classes for two weeks, closed shopping malls and ordered the suspension of flights from the US starting Wednesday and from Europe starting Friday.

Updated at 4.21pm GMT

3.48pm GMT

Lombardy death toll up 319 in a single day

In Lombardy 319 people coronavirus patients have died in a single day, two sources with access to the data have told Reuters.

The sources said the number of new cases in the region, which includes Italy’s financial capital Milan, had increased by almost 1,500, with the tally of confirmed cases rising above 17,700.

The latest national death toll figures are due to be released later in the day. On Tuesday, the country-wide tally stood at 2,503.

3.44pm GMT

Coronavirus infections in New York up 695

Jesse McKinley, Albany bureau chief for the NY Times, is live tweeting New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily coronavirus address to the state.

3.39pm GMT

Nepal is to close its borders completely to anyone – even its own nationals – arriving in the country from Europe, west Asia, the gulf states and other countries badly hit by the Covid-19 outbreak.

The ban will come into effect from midnight on Friday and remain in place until 15 April, according to the Kathmandu Post. Movement to and from China, however, remains open.

Rajan Pokhrel, director-general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, said:

The decision means that all Nepalis who are currently outside the country have to enter Nepal by Friday midnight. As the Indian government has banned the entry and exit of all passengers from its airports, we didn’t deem it necessary to ban passenger movement to India.

Updated at 3.41pm GMT

3.32pm GMT

Sri Lanka is closing all international airports to arriving passenger flights, the US state department has reported on Twitter.

Updated at 3.34pm GMT

3.30pm GMT

Chile declares 90-day state of emergency

Sebastian Piñera, the president of Chile, has declared a 90-day state of emergency to curb the spread of Coronavirus in the country.

While specific details are yet to be announced, these measures could see the restriction of transport and the prohibition of public gatherings. The military is authorised to uphold these regulations when required.

A worker disinfects public chess boards in Santiago city centre to avoid spread of coronavirus on Tuesday
A worker disinfects public chess boards in Santiago city centre to avoid spread of coronavirus on Tuesday
Photograph: Marcelo Hernández/Getty Images

This is the second state of emergency that Piñera has applied in under 6 months. In October, the President called for an 8-day state of emergency to repress protests over rising costs of living. The unrest has continued for over five months — over a hundred were seen marching in Santiago’s Plaza Italia as recently as Monday. Such demonstrations are now expected to come to an abrupt halt over Covid-19 concerns.

While many in the country understand the necessity to ensure public wellbeing, there is great distrust in Piñera, who has a 12% approval rating. Over 30 have been killed and thousands have suffered injuries caused by the state’s harsh repression on protesters — it is a troubling time to see the government assume greater power.

Responding to protesters’ demands, Piñera established a vote to change the country’s referendum last November. Originally set for the end of April, it is likely the referendum will be postponed.

There are currently 238 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Chile, with 0 deaths.

Updated at 3.32pm GMT

3.26pm GMT

The wedding of Princess Beatrice, the Queen’s granddaughter, has been postponed until next year because of the Covid-19 outbreak, Sun executive editor Dan Wootton reports on Twitter.

3.21pm GMT

Parisians who fled the French capital before the national lockdown are finding the welcome to second or family homes in the countryside less than warm after locals accused them of spreading the coronavirus.

Trains leaving Paris for the countryside were packed on Tuesday morning, hours before the government’s order to stay at home unless absolutely necessary or face €135 fines came into effect at midday.

In places, however, the Parisian arrivals were met with a frosty reception.

Graffiti on a fence at Cap Ferret near Arcachon in south-west France set the tone with “Parigo home virus?”. Parigo is French slang for Parisians.

The Eiffel tower on Wednesday, the second day of the confinement of the French due to an outbreak of coronavirus
The Eiffel tower on Wednesday, the second day of the confinement of the French due to an outbreak of coronavirus
Photograph: Marc Piasecki/Getty Images

Updated at 3.26pm GMT

3.19pm GMT

Nigeria has issued a travel ban on citizens from 13 countries, as authorities confirmed five new cases bringing the total in the west Africa country to eight.

The government said on Twitter it “is restricting entry into the country for travellers from… China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, US, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland.

“These are all countries with over 1,000 cases domestically.”

Updated at 3.26pm GMT

3.05pm GMT

Hello, it’s Damien Gayle taking over on the world news live blog for the next couple of hours. Please send any tips and news from your part of the world to damien.gayle@theguardian.com, or via my Twitter profile, @damiengayle.

2.56pm GMT

Daughters pay tribute to UK’s NHS after father’s care

The daughters of loving father and grandfather Leonard Gibson, 78, who died yesterday after testing positive for Covi-19 have thanked the hospital staff who cared for their dad during his time at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield.

Gibson, who lived in sheltered accommodation in Oughtibridge, near Sheffield, had the lung disease chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and had finished a course of antibiotics after feeling unwell for a few days.

When his illness continued, he was admitted to the Northern General Hospital on Saturday where he was tested for COVID-19 and the result was positive. Despite staff doing all they could to care for ther 78-year-old, he passed away yesterday.

Lisa Broughton and Michelle Lenton, Leonard’s daughters, described their dad as “kind, loving, generous, crazy and fun loving – a jolly Irish man who made everyone smile”.

They said:

We are very grateful to all the Northern General Hospital staff that helped our Dad during this difficult time, they dealt with us sensitively and efficiently and we felt constantly reassured by their kind words. We have nothing but praise for the NHS and our dad’s treatment, especially the kindness that everyone showed us. They really went the extra mile for dad and our family. For example when we could not be there in person, we rang lots of times to see how he was. Even though they were probably very busy, every member of staff took time to talk to us in detail but more importantly they made sure dad knew each time that we had phoned and that we had said we loved him. A small thing but so important to us at that time.

The pair also urged everyone to take the advice being given by Public Health England and the Government seriously and in particular to “take time to make sure those people who may be alone or more vulnerable are able to manage over the next few months.“

Lisa said:

At a time like this, community spirit, kindness and vigilance are more important than ever to make sure we get through this outbreak. Everyone should listen to the advice we are being given and take this seriously.

2.48pm GMT

Ryanair to ground most flights

Ryanair has announced it will ground “most if not all” flights after next Tuesday, write the Guardian’s UK transport correspondent Gwyn Topham.

The airline currently expects to run a “very small number of flights for essential connectivity”, mainly between the UK and Ireland. More than 80% of flights still scheduled until then will be grounded immediately. It said call centres were overloaded and asked customers not to call, and await email instructions. It may operate some “rescue flights” from the EU, it said, where possible.

2.44pm GMT

UK union calls on Deliveroo to reform hardship fund

A trade union representing gig economy workers has called on Deliveroo, the food delivery service, to reform its Covid-19 hardship fund, which they say only pays out to workers with a sick note, writes my colleague Damien Gayle in London.

Even as food delivery services become increasingly crucial for households in self-isolation over suspected coronavirus infections, there are fears that the gig economy riders who staff them may be continuing to ride while themselves sick or face destitution.

Deliveroo’s fund, announced last week, was supposed to offer riders a safety net in case they had to self-isolate over suspected infection with coronavirus.

However, a spokesperson for the IWGB said that riders who were calling up to report that they were suffering from symptoms were having their delivery accounts deactivated, then told they could not access emergency funds unless they were able to provide a sick note.

NHS guidelines state that people who display symptoms of the disease should not go to their GP, and the NHS 111 helpline cannot provide sick notes, making them impossible to obtain for suspected Covid-19 infections in most cases.

It is understood that riders working for other gig economy services are being left in the same position. Alex Marshall, chair of the IWGB Couriers and Logistics branch, said:

“Deliveroo and other so-called gig economy employers have to stop blocking their workers’ access to these funds and immediately introduce full contractual sick pay, without pre-conditions.

“Increasingly, these workers are being expected to play a huge role in feeding people during this time of crisis, so it is time for their employers and the government to give them the basic rights we expect in any decent and just society.”

The Guardian has contacted Deliveroo for comment.

2.42pm GMT

Factcheck: coronavirus whatsapp messages

False information on coronavirus has been circulating WhatsApp groups, targeting school and parent groups, writes my colleague Elena Morresi.

Originally circulating in Italy, it claimed to come from a nurse in Milan, in the US from Stanford University, in the UK from an “internal email for staff in St George’s Hospital.”

Here are a number of claims fact-checked:

Covid’19 “hates heat and dies if it is exposed to temperatures greater than 80°F (27°C) Therefore hot drinks such as infusions, broths or simply hot water should be consumed abundantly during the day (…) the Sun’s UV rays kill the virus.”

Soap and water or antibacterial gels used correctly are the only proven method to remove the virus from your hands and surfaces.

“The Coronavirus has a large size (diameter of 400-500 nanometres) so face masks can stop it, no special face masks are needed in daily life.”

Covid-19 is around 120 – 160 nanometres. No mask guarantees complete protection.

“If an infected person sneezes near us, stay 10 feet (3.3 metres) away to allow the virus fall to the ground.”

Social distancing will slow the spread, however a sneeze travels around 150 km/h and can stay in the air for some time – there is no precise 3-metre rule.

“When the virus is on hard surfaces, it survives about 12 hours.”

It is not yet known how long Covid-19 survives on surfaces. Some coronaviruses can remain active outside a host for days.

“You can gargle with disinfectant solutions (…) that eliminate or minimize the amount of virus that can enter the throat.”

Covid-19 is a respiratory virus, mouthwash cannot protect against infection.

2.36pm GMT

Food bank closes in UK

Concerned Guardian reader Clare Finnigan has pointed out this sad and worrying news in the UK, where a food bank has taken the “difficult decision” to close.

2.34pm GMT

50% of ventilators used in acute hospitals worldwide are made in Ireland

Trump has spoken about the key role played by Ireland in the pharmaceutical world as the world searches for coronavirus vaccines and treatments, adding that the US was “looking to bring a lot more back home,” writes my colleague Ben Quinn.

As reported by RTE news, 50% of ventilators used in acute hospitals worldwide are made in Ireland, according to IDA Ireland, the agency responsible for the attraction and retention of inward foreign direct investment into Ireland

2.28pm GMT

British tourists stranded in Egypt

British tourists stranded in the Egyptian resort town of Hurghada are complaining that airline operator Easyjet has cancelled flights, not allowing them to return before Egypt shuts down international and domestic flights on Thursday noon.

The British Ambassador to Egypt, Sir Geoffrey Adams, said the embassy is working to respond to the issue:

Egypt now has 196 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including six deaths according to the country’s Ministry of Health.

Jean Jabbour, director of the World Health Organization in Cairo announced that Egypt has tested 3015 people. He was speaking at a digital press conference earlier today to discuss the spread of COVID-19 in the Middle East.

Dr Ahmed Al Mandhari, director of the WHO for the Eastern Meditarranean region said that 18,019 cases have been reported in 18 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region, including 1010 deaths from 7 countries.

He added:

Let me here also stress the difference between under-reporting, and underestimation of confirmed cases. There has been much coverage in the media that some countries are not revealing the true numbers of reported cases. As you all know, the nature of this virus affects people differently – the majority of people experience mild cases and do not seek medical care, while other have more severe cases and seek medical care. As a result, it is almost entirely the severe cases that are captured in disease surveillance systems. But it is probable that in all the countries in the world, there are many mild cases that are not identified. As a result, we can say that there may be an underestimation of the cases – this is an issue for almost all countries, even those with developed health systems.

2.22pm GMT

Nigeria limits entry from 13 countries

Nigeria has announced that it is restricting entry into the country for travellers from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, U.S, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland. On Wednesday the government confirmed the country had 8 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

2.17pm GMT

View of Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands in October 2019
View of Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands in October 2019
Photograph: Pablo Porciuncula Brune/AFP via Getty Images

There are concerns in some of the remotest parts of the world about the lack of coronavirus testing facilities.

In Greenland in the far north, and the Falklands in the far south, samples from patients suspected of contracting the virus, have to be flown thousands of miles away for confirmation.

Anders Madsen, a nurse from Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, emailed the Guardian on Monday to confirm the island’s first case. But in his latest update he pointed out that Greenland is still waiting for the test results from nine other patients to be analysed in Denmark which controls the island. Meanwhile, all schools in Greenland have been closed in line with Danish policy, he said.

Madsen added:

All flights internally and to and from Greenland will be grounded for 14 days starting at midnight on Friday. The fact that local flights within Greenland will be grounded is rather significant because no two towns in Greenland are connected by road. The only way to get to a different settlement is via boat or plane.

Madsen’s comments on Monday, prompted another reader from the Falkland Islands to report similar concerns.

The reader, who did not want to be named, said:

All samples need to be flown to the UK on one of the twice weekly MOD flights. We have been told test results will take five to ten days. People have contacted the hospital, but for the most part they are still advising that testing is not necessary unless you have travelled. We do not know if the virus is here. I believe we have one person in self isolation who felt unwell after travelling from the UK, but again that has not officially been confirmed.

The reader said there was also alarm on the Falklands about the limited hospital capacity if coronavirus does hit. They said:

A key concern is the ability of the hospital to cope. In total the island’s hospital has 29 beds, seven of which are used for long term care for the elderly already. There are two intensive care beds. Usually if anyone needs critical or specialist care they are flown out to South America or the UK, which is clearly not going to be an option with coronavirus cases. The government raised the possibility that even regular emergency cases might not be accepted by our partners countries if their health systems are already overwhelmed.

Many of our medical staff are here on short term contracts, recruited from the UK (or occasionally other countries, we have had several doctors from Canada lately) to work for for 3 to 6 months at a time. Falkland Islanders are concerned what will happen when contracts end and if we will be able to replace those who leave.

The other key concern has been tourists coming in. Cruise ship tourists regularly outnumbering the population during the peak season. The season is coming to an end, which should help reduce exposure, but as of today there are still several ships heading here that were reportedly turned away from Punta Arenas.

Falkland Islanders are strong, resilient people, but it does feel like the Falkland Island government has been caught unaware by the current outbreak. Updates are few and far between and the current policy to follow the UK’s lead feels problematic given our geographic location and resources.

Update: Madsen writes:

A second person with Covid-19 in Nuuk has been confirmed. As of 16:00 this afternoon local time the shopping center “Nuuk Center” will close, along with will bars, cafés, restaurants and gyms. Establishments are allowed to offer take-away food. Grocery stores are allowed to remain open.

No one is allowed to leave Nuuk by any mode of transport (snow mobile, boat, plane, etc). This effectively places the whole town in isolation from the rest of Greenland.

Updated at 4.11pm GMT

2.15pm GMT

Interesting story in the New Yorker with relevance to the current pandemic:

A major animal disease research centre is set to move from an island off the US East Coast to Kansas, the American breadbasket, where a lab accident could destroy the billion-a-year beef industry, journalist Elizabeth Eaves writes.

While high-containment laboratories are crucial to advancing our understanding of new diseases like the novel coronavirus, the number of these labs in the United States has been growing with no central planning or oversight.

There are at least 276, a Government Accountability Office report found in 2017, but the actual number is higher and no one knows for sure what it is.

Every new lab carries with it some risk, as a history of lab breaches demonstrates. For example, a leak from Britain’s Pirbright Institute, a world-renowned high-containment research facility, caused a foot-and-mouth outbreak among livestock in 2007. In the United States, both the Centers for Disease Control and the US Army have accidentally sent live anthrax between labs, unwittingly exposing workers.

The new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, as it’s called, is being built for .25 billion—about three times original projections—and will begin opening its doors in 2021.

2.00pm GMT

United States-Canada border shut down

A shutdown of the United States-Canada border, barring all
non-essential travel, is likely to be met with strong approval in
Canada, as health officials grapple with a surge in coronavirus cases
originating in the United States, writes my colleague Leyland Cecco in Toronto.

When prime minister Justin Trudeau previously announced the closure of Canada’s border to international travellers earlier this week, he made a large exception: American citizens could still travel north.

But a growing number of coronavirus cases has likely shifted the government’s calculations in recent days.

“We have 32 new [cases] in the last 24 hours,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said Monday. “And a significant number of those were exposed [to the virus] in the United States.”

British Columbia’s health minister has been the most vocal of critic of Americans still having permission to travel into Canada. The westernmost province has been hit hard in recent days by a surge in cases, many of which are suspected of have originated in northern Washington state, one of the deadliest locations in the country for the virus.

“It’s our strong view and it’s our strong message that visitors from the United States not come to British Columbia,” said minister Adrian Dix at a press conference Tuesday night, as health officials announced a surge in cases- and three more deaths. “Don’t come. Because at this moment that is the wrong thing to do.”

Updated at 2.01pm GMT

1.48pm GMT

US-Canada border to close to “non-essential” traffic

US president Donald Trump has just tweeted that the US-Canada border will be closed to “non-essential traffic”. Trump insists: “trade will not be affected”.

More details in our US-focused liveblog:

Updated at 1.55pm GMT

1.45pm GMT

Cannes Lions festival postponed in France

Annual advertising industry jamboree the Cannes Lions festival has been postponed until October. A statement on the festival’s website says:

As always, the health, safety and wellbeing of our community is our priority. The decision was made following productive talks with our valued partners and customers and following consultation with public health officials, the City of Cannes and the French Authorities.

We have worked with the City of Cannes to make sure that the move from June to October is a smooth transition for everyone. If you are an existing Cannes Lions customer, all passes, sponsorship arrangements and bookings will roll over and remain valid.

Updated at 3.08pm GMT

1.42pm GMT

Boris Johnson faces British MPs in prime minister’s questions – snap verdict

Even the most ghastly events normally have some minor, beneficial upside and now, alongside improved global air quality and the abolition of the BBC Question Time audience, we can add PMQs to the list of things made better by coronavirus. The tone was always going to serious and sombre given the nature of the crisis facing the country. (Every single question was about coronavirus, by my count.) But the effect of holding it in a near-empty chamber also made a difference because there was no cheering or barracking. Boris Johnson had no noise cushion to help him through. It meant that what he said mattered more.

Johnson was pressed repeatedly, especially by Jeremy Corbyn, by Ian Blackford and most effectively of all by Chris Byrant, on what he was doing to help workers who will lose out from coronavirus and he was on slightly shaky ground. Ministers insist they will announce a package of employment support measures very soon, and Johnson repeatedly insisted that people should not lose out for doing the right thing (ie, for staying at home, even if they feel well) and he repeatedly said that he was willing to do whatever it took. To some extent, that still sounded more like a slogan than a strategy.

But PMQs should also been an opportunity for the prime minister to listen, as well as to communicate, and one would imagine than Johnson would have left the chamber more persuaded than ever about the need for some mass government intervention to protect workers. If Felicity Buchan, a Kensington Tory with a background in banking, is saying that the government does not need to worry about borrowing any more (see 12.29pm), then it is hard to see what is restraining No 10.

Johnson has a proper announcement to make during the session. In response to a question from Corbyn, he confirmed that the government would legislate to protect renters from eviction during the coronavirus crisis. He told MPs:

I can indeed confirm that we will be bringing forward legislation to protect private renters from eviction, that is one thing we will do, but it is also important as we legislate that we do not simply pass on the problem, so we’ll also be taking steps to protect other actors in the economy.

Johnson also announced that coronavirus testing was being ramped up to 25,000 tests a day. And, although he did not reveal what the government’s employment support measures would involve, his answers on this were intriguing. He did not dismiss out of hand the temporary universal basis income idea floated by Blackford, or Bryant’s call for a handout in the form of a summer version of the winter fuel payment.

Johnson was also interesting on the subject of schools. He told MPs:

The house should expect further decisions to be taken imminently on schools and how to make sure we square the circle both of making sure we stop the spread of the disease but also making sure we relieve, as much as we can, pressure on our NHS.

That sounded very much like a hint that the government will announce a partial closure of schools, with some provision being kept open – perhaps for children of key workers, or perhaps with schools in childminding rather than education mode? – to minimise the impact on the NHS.

Keep with more detailed live news from the UK here.

1.41pm GMT

Spanish hotels set to close as British tourists told to return home

British tourists in Spain who are looking to return to the UK should make travel arrangements as soon as possible, the British ambassador to Spain has said, as all hotels in the country have been ordered to close down within a week, writes my colleague Ashifa Kassam in Madrid.

“Our advice is now that British tourists in Spain who wish to return home should make travel plans to do so as soon as possible,” Hugh Elliott said in a video posted online on Tuesday evening.

He continued: “The government has ordered the closure of hotels over the next seven days in order to reduce risks to health.” As hotels begin shuttering, some tourists will be asked to move hotels, he noted.

The embassy is in close contact with Spanish authorities, who have made it clear that “no one will be left without accommodation,” said Elliott. He urged tourists and residents in Spain to check the government’s site for up-to-date travel advice.

The ambassador’s advice comes after the Spanish government said this week that it had not ruled out closing the country’s airspace.

Nearly 600 people have died in Spain in recent weeks and cases of coronavirus have surged to 13,716, leaving the country battling an epidemic that ranks among the worst in Europe.

As pressure builds on the country’s healthcare system, Spanish authorities said they were considering turning now-vacant hotels into makeshift hospitals. The first such transformation, described by local media as a “medicalised hotel,” is expected to begin operating this week, after a four-star hotel in central Madrid offered up its 361 rooms to authorities.

Elliott also reminded British tourists and residents to continue to comply with Spain’s near-total lockdown, amid videos making the rounds on social media that show some tourists flaunting the new rules. Earlier in the week, as the measures went into effect, Spanish media published a video showing holidaymakers wandering leisurely through Benidorm. “It’s a flu that we just all need to get over,” one tourist told news agency Atlas. “Have a beer,” he added, waving around the open beer can he was carrying.

Updated at 1.53pm GMT

1.36pm GMT

Eurovision Song Contest cancelled

The 2020 Eurovision Song Contest has become the latest high profile cultural event to be hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with the annual songwriting competition delayed until 2021. Due to be held in Rotterdam on 16 May, the event will now take place 12 months later in the same venue.

Full story here:

Also, if you need cheering up (and frankly, who doesn’t right now), give the Icelandic entry a watch. As our very own Jay Rayner states: “if this hadn’t won there would be no justice”.

There’s even a petition to give it to Iceland, by default.

1.28pm GMT

Schools and nurseries in Scotland to close

Breaking: Nicola Sturgeon announces schools and nurseries in Scotland will close to pupils at the end of the week.

The first minister said there will be further announcements to support low income students on free school meals as well as students who have exams.

Sturgeon added that people should not assume schools and nurseries will reopen after the Easter break. She cannot promise it will reopen before summer holidays.

She said: “It will not be easy, but together we will get through this.”

1.22pm GMT

More details on the first death in sub-Saharan Africa

A person has died from coronavirus in Burkina Faso, the first known death from the disease in sub-Saharan Africa, writes the Guardian’s international correspondent Michael Safi.

The country, where security has been deteriorating for months due to attacks by armed groups including some linked to Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, has emerged as a hotspot in Africa, with 27 confirmed cases and at least 200 more people suspected of having the disease.

South Africa has the most cases in the region with 116 as of this morning, a 31% jump on yesterday’s figures.

The Burkina Faso government has closed schools and universities and banned public gatherings but is said to be enforcing the laws in a piecemeal way, raising fears the infection could spread

1.18pm GMT

The wearing of masks has been made compulsory in Prague, by order of local authorities.

The measure, which comes into effect today from 6pm local time, comes after authorities had said that masks would also be required in all indoor spaces such as shops and offices. A fine of up to 20,000 CZ has been set.

1.14pm GMT

In Denmark, a simple but seemingly effective step is being employed in at least one retailer

1.11pm GMT

Facebook has banned the sale of medical masks on its Marketplace platform, but the Guardian has found evidence of how users are selling them in closed groups to get around the ban.

We found at least five groups, some of which have thousands of members, where people posted offers to buy and sell masks. Some of these groups appear to be targeted specifically at UK users and have members whose Facebook location is in the UK.

It is not clear what price the masks are selling for as vendors mostly appear to be arranging sales via Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp. The groups also show posts offering hand sanitiser and thermometers for sale.

As the pandemic worsens there is a serious global shortage of medical masks. Facebook announced it would ban users selling masks on its Marketplace or placing ads featuring masks, in an attempt to stop price gouging.

Amazon and Ebay have also restricted the sale of masks, though earlier this week the Guardian found other household items selling at hugely inflated prices on Ebay.

Facebook has been contacted for comment.

12.49pm GMT

Greece to announce ban on group gatherings

A general ban on group gatherings will be announced within the day in Greece.

Speaking to Alpha TV earlier, the government spokesman, Stelios Petsas, who is self-isolating as his wife has contracted coronavirus, signalled a cap of ten was likely to be placed on groups meeting in public spaces such as parks and squares.

“Today we will take another step and proceed with a ban on gatherings above a certain number … unfortunately, and I say this with regret, the recommendation that we should all stay at home while upheld by a large part of the population is still not followed by all, and that is very dangerous.”

When put to him that experts were saying it was good to be out in the sun, Petsas clarified it wasn’t “a problem” for one or two people to take a stroll “and on the contrary helps them psychologically and helps them deal with this period of self-isolation.”

But what had been witnessed in recent days of people converging on the beach and in public spaces in cities nationwide was unacceptable, he told the channel.

The government has repeatedly said that those caught flouting regulations will be punished.

A man wearing a protective mask walks next to empty tables of a restaurant that is closed to customers as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), at the ancient Roman Agora in Athens, Greece, March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
A man wearing a protective mask walks next to empty tables of a restaurant that is closed to customers as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), at the ancient Roman Agora in Athens, Greece, March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
Photograph: Costas Baltas/Reuters

Greece was among the first EU states to prohibit mass public events but has yet to announce a full lockdown that would include a curfew on the streets. Petsas that “at this point” it was not considering one.

With cafes and eateries closed, young Greeks, in particular, have taken to hanging out in squares and the few green spaces that exist in central Athens.

Sites around the capital’s world-renowned antiquities have become popular – even if they, too, are closed. So far, Greek health authorities have announced 387 confirmed cases of coronavirus. There have been five reported deaths as a result of covid-19.

Updated at 12.58pm GMT

12.46pm GMT

Erdogan – ‘Big opportunities’ for Turkey if virus can be contained

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan has said the coronavirus outbreak was hitting Turkey just as it was recovering from a 2018 lira crisis but that there would be “big opportunities” if it could bring the outbreak under control in the coming weeks.

Turkey confirmed its first death related to the coronavirus on Tuesday and a doubling of its confirmed cases in one day to 98 after it ramped up measures to combat the spread of the virus.

“It is not easy to keep all the wheels of the economy turning while battling coronavirus,” Reuters reported Erdogan as saying at the start of a meeting he was chairing with ministers, bankers and business leaders to discuss dealing with the pandemic.

“If we can manage these few weeks well and inform the nation well and keep the virus under control, we anticipate a good outlook, better than we had hoped,” he said.

“We can see that greater opportunities await us when we get out of this period with success.”

An employee from Istanbul Municipality disinfects Istanbul’s famous Istiklal street to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, coronavirus on March 18, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey.
An employee from Istanbul Municipality disinfects Istanbul’s famous Istiklal street to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, coronavirus on March 18, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Photograph: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

12.30pm GMT

Dutch parliamentarians debate ‘herd immunity’ strategy

Dutch plans to press ahead with a controversial ‘herd immunity’ strategy against the coronavirus outbreak continued to face criticism today as parliamentarians debated an approach which the Netherlands appears to be alone in pursuing.

In a speech to the nation on Monday, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said that the Netherlands would aim to develop immunity to coronavirus among its population by allowing large numbers to contract the illness at a controlled pace

“Those who have had the virus are usually immune afterwards. Just like in the old days with measles. The larger the group that is immune, the less chance that the virus will jump to vulnerable elderly people and people with poor health. With group immunity you build, as it were, a protective wall around them,” said Rutte.

The debate by members of the Dutch House of Representatives can be viewed live here on the Netherlands public broadcaster, NOS.

But while Rutte insisted on Tuesday that the strategy of his country – which has banned public gatherings and taken other measures – differed little from that of other states some Dutch people have been left to wonder if had become “the guineapigs of Europe.”

The British government announced last week that it would be banning mass gatherings after prime minister Boris Johnson’s cautious approach to the coronavirus outbreak was overtaken by care homes, sporting bodies and others. That came after the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, had last week defended its initial approach to coronavirus, saying it was aimed at creating a “herd immunity.”

Amid a continued debate in the Netherlands, some insisted that the strategy of ‘herd immunity’ was a side effect rather than the main goal, which was to mirror that of other states in attempting to use social distancing and other measures to ‘flatten the curve’ of the likely peak of the outbreak.

A Dutch microbiologist, Marc Bonten of UMC Utrecht, told De Telegraaf newspaper that even countries opting for a total lockdown would have to work on building group immunity.

But critics including the London-based economist Jerome Roos pointed to what they estimated the resulting death rate would be, as well as arguing that countries going for ‘herd immunity’ would make it impossible for the countries trying to completely stamp out the virus through collective quarantines

Roos told the Guardian that the Dutch approach does not mimic the one Boris Johnson’s government in the UK just backtracked on – adding that there was a lot of “epidemic suppression” going on in the Netherlands already with school closures and other developments – so it didn’t make a lot of sense for Rutte to invoke the concept of herd immunity in his address to the nation.

This is Ben Quinn picking up the blog now from Lexy Topping as she takes a break.

Updated at 12.54pm GMT

12.09pm GMT

Summary

Updated at 12.16pm GMT

11.37am GMT

Iran reports single biggest jump in deaths from coronavirus

Iran reported its single biggest jump in deaths from the new coronavirus on Wednesday, saying that another 147 had died in a nearly 15% spike that raises the death toll to 1,135 people nationwide, the Associated Press reports:

It marks the biggest 24-hour rise in deaths since officials first acknowledged cases of the virus in Iran in mid-February.

The rise in deaths comes as the number of cases continues to grow each day, with some 17,361 people having been infection nationwide, according to a briefing Wednesday by Irans deputy health minister, Alireza Raisi.

The outbreak has cast a shadow over the Persian New Year, Nowruz, a normally joyous holiday that begins on Friday. Health officials have urged the public to avoid travel and crowded places. But many seem to be ignoring the warnings, raising the risk of further outbreaks.

11.32am GMT

Global number of confirmed coronavirus cases reaches 200,000

The number of coronavirus cases around the world has tipped over the 200,000 mark, according to the John Hopkins University global dashboard.

11.14am GMT

Vietnam to introduce bans on wildlife markets

Vietnam’s prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, has asked the country’s agriculture ministry to draft a directive to stop illegal trading and consumption of wildlife over fears it spreads disease.

Here is an extract:

The directive, seen as a victory for animal rights organisations, will lead to a clamping down on street-side markets dotted across the country, increase prosecutions of online traders and ideally put pressure on thousands of farms with known links to illegal wildlife trading.

Vitenam’s move to ban the wildlife trade follows similar moves by the Chinese government, after the new coronavirus pandemic appeared to have emerged from a wet market in Wuhan.

Read the full report here:

Updated at 11.23am GMT

11.11am GMT

EasyJet puts autumn and winter flights on sale early

EasyJet has put all its flights for autumn and next winter on sale early – for a flat fare of £29.99 – even during Christmas and school holiday peaks, writes the Guardian’s transport correspondent, Gwyn Topham.

The airline said the move will give more scope to passengers who had booked flights for the next couple of months to find alternatives, without any charges to change existing bookings (or to rebook should the crisis persist).

The extraordinary step could provide particularly good deals for people booking in the next week for peak season – and perhaps a glimmer of optimism for some normality ahead.

EasyJet will hope it generates some revenues and forward bookings at a time when demand has vanished and airlines await details of the chancellor’s promised package of help, with the industry warning that most airlines worldwide could go bankrupt by the end of May.

Updated at 11.28am GMT

10.59am GMT

Glastonbury to postpone UK festival

Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary celebrations will not go ahead this year in the UK, after organisers announced they would be cancelling because of coronavirus fears.

Tickets bought for this year’s festival will be valid for next year, organisers said.

Earlier this month despite coronavirus worries, the festival announced a wave of more than 90 artists including headliner Kendrick Lamar.

The festival was scheduled to take place 24-28 June at Worthy Farm, Somerset. It was due to take place during the likely peak of the outbreak in the UK, according to information announced by Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific advised.

Updated at 11.01am GMT

10.55am GMT

Deserted streets in Brussels ahead of lock down

10.52am GMT

First death in sub-Saharan Africa reported

Burkina Faso has announced its first death from coronavirus, which is also the first known fatality in sub-Saharan Africa, according to AFP Africa.

10.51am GMT

Iran’s president defends government response

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has defended his government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Associated Press reports.

The Iranian government has faced widespread criticism that officials acted too slowly and may have even covered up initial cases before infections rapidly spread across the country.

AP reports:

Iran has been the hardest hit country in the region, with nearly 1,000 dead and roughly 90% of the over 18,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the Middle East. Its leadership announced Tuesday that millions could die in the Islamic Republic if people keep traveling and ignore health guidance.

In a speech to his Cabinet, Rouhani said the government was straightforward” with the nation, saying it announced the outbreak as soon as it learned about it on Feb. 19. “We spoke to people in a honest way. We had no delay, he added.

The government has come under heavy criticism for what has been seen as a slow and inadequate response. For weeks, government officials implored clerics to shut down crowded holy shrines to stymie the spread of the virus. The government finally closed the shrines this week.

“It was difficult of course to shut down mosques and holy sites, but we did it. It was a religious duty to do it”, Rouhani said.

The outbreak has cast a shadow over the Persian New Year, Nowruz, a normally joyous holiday that begins on Friday. Health officials have urged the public to avoid travel and crowded places. But many seem to be ignoring the warnings, raising the risk of further outbreaks.

Some food markets in the capital, Tehran, were still packed on Wednesday, and highways were crowded with traffic as families traveled between cities. Iran also announced it would close mosques for communal Friday prayers for a third consecutive week. Other Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have also cancelled Friday prayers in mosques.

10.41am GMT

Bangladesh reports first death from coronavirus, according to officials

Bangladesh has reported its first death from coronavirus while 14 patients are infected with the disease across the country, according to officials.

The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) Director Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora told reporters at a press briefing in Dhaka today, tbs news reported.

“The elderly victim was suffering from many old age complications and came into contact with a returnee from abroad,” she added.

Flora also said four new coronavirus patients, including one female and three male, were indentified in the country in the last 24 hours.

Updated at 12.08pm GMT

10.35am GMT

Estonia and Latvia to send ships to bring home stranded citizens

Estonia and Latvia have pledged to send ships to bring home hundreds of their citizens stranded on the German-Polish border, after Poland closed its borders last week to prevent the spread of coronavirus, writes my colleague Jennifer Rankin in Brussels.

Citing official sources, Reuters said the countries were organising cruise ships and ferries to bring their citizens home via Baltic ports later on Wednesday and next week. The Lithuanian government estimates that 420 vehicles with Lithuanian number plates were stuck at the German-Polish border on Monday.

Under EU law, countries are allowed to introduce border controls during emergency situations, but are obliged to allow their own citizens to enter and citizens of other EU countries to pass through on their way home.

Following talks with 27 EU leaders via video link on Tuesday, the head of the European commission Ursula von der Leyen said it was “absolutely crucial that we unblock the situation, because we know that too many people are stranded within the European Union”.

As lorries queue at the EU’s internal borders, prompting concern about the supply of food and medical goods, von der Leyen also urged states to follow new guidelines to ensure the swift flow of supplies.

The flow of goods has to be swift. We need these goods for the functioning of the internal market.

She was speaking after EU leaders approved a ban on non-EU citizens coming into the union. EU member states will now have to enforce the 30-day ban, which includes exemptions for British nationals, EU citizens and family members returning home, healthcare workers and researchers, diplomats and people transporting goods.

10.11am GMT

UN agencies: refugees will no longer be resettled in safe countries

Two UN agencies have announced that refugees will no longer be resettled to homes in safe countries, as the world battles the Covid-19 crisis, writes my colleague Jennifer Rankin in Brussels.

In a joint statement, the UN refugee agency (the UNHCR) and the UN migration agency (the IOM), said refugee resettlement would be suspended as “a temporary measure that will be in place only for as long as it remains essential”.

As more countries have introduced travel restrictions and frozen refugee resettlement programmes, the two agencies had little choice. They also raised concern that international travel could increase the exposure of refugees to the virus.

In 2019, the UNHCR helped more than 63,600 refugees find a life in a new country, including people who had fled Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and Somalia. In the previous year, the IOM helped nearly 95,000 people find a new home, whether through a resettlement programme to a safe country, or some other humanitarian scheme.

The decision comes after rights groups warned that refugees and migrants – especially unaccompanied minors – need urgent help. The charities are deeply concerned about the fate of 36,000 asylum seekers on five Greek islands, who are sheltering in squalid, overcrowded camps, often lacking electricity, heating and hot water.

Updated at 10.26am GMT

9.39am GMT

Belgium locks down

Belgium is the latest country to go into lockdown, with citizens asked to stay at home and limit contact to their closest family, writes Jennifer Rankin.

From noon local time (CET), all non-essential shops and open-air markets will close and people will be expected to work at home.

Employers who require staff to be on site but cannot ensure social distancing face fines and even closure.

The measures are similar to those adopted by France24 hours earlier, but looser. People will be able to visit supermarkets, pharmacies, medical professionals, banks, post offices and bookshops.

Supermarkets must limit the number of customers to one per 10 square metres, meaning people are likely to have to queue outside, where they must also observe social distancing by standing well apart.

Going out for a walk or a run, or riding a bike is allowed, “even encouraged”, the authorities say, as long as people observe a distance of one and a half metres from anyone who is not a member of their household.

The restrictions, which are unprecedented in peacetime, were agreed on Tuesday night by Belgium’s national security council, which includes the prime minister, Sophie Wilmès, deputy prime ministers, other senior politicians and the security services.

Wilmès, appointed by the king on Monday to form a permanent government, after 15 months of caretaker administrations, said social distancing did not have to mean no social contact, stressing the role technology could play to keep people together.

She said:

These decisions were not taken lightly and were taken because we are obliged to by the evolving situation. Success in our struggle against Covid-19 is inextricably linked to the efforts of each person.

Belgium has had 1,085 cases of Covid-19 and 10 people have died, according to the latest figures in Belgian media.

Updated at 9.42am GMT

9.22am GMT

More UK-focused coronavirus news on the Guardian’s UK coronavirus live

This blog will retain a global focus. For news relating more specifically to the UK please do also keep an eye on our UK coronavirus liveblog.

Updated at 9.39am GMT

9.17am GMT

Iran study: 3.5m Iranians could die if government guidelines are not followed

Sune Engel Rasmussen, Middle East corespondent for the Wall Street Journal and formerly of this parish, has tweeted the results of a study from Iran’s Sharif University, which reveal:

  • If Iranians cooperate with government guidelines now, 12,000 are likely to die.
  • If they cooperate in a limited way, 110,000 are likely to die.
  • If there is no cooperation the outbreak is likely to peak in June and cause 3.5 million deaths.

Rasmussen has also reported on Iran’s worshippers attempting to break into holy shrines and mosques, defying Iranian leaders who are trying to bar access to religious sites because of coronavirus.

Updated at 9.39am GMT

9.08am GMT

Ireland’s taoiseach Leo Varadkar praised for national address

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s taoiseach, has won praise for a national address on Tuesday night that made grim predictions and called for sacrifice, responsibility and solidarity, writes Rory Carroll.

In a rare interruption to television schedules, the premier appeared on screens at 9pm in a sombre and at times emotional speech that struck Churchillian notes in saying many will die and the economy will reel in coming weeks and months.

“This is the calm before the storm, before the surge. And when it comes, and it will come, never will so many ask so much of so few.”

8.48am GMT

Scientists working around the clock, says professor of primary care

Trisha Greenhalgh, professor of primary care, University of Oxford, has written a thread giving an insight into the round-the-clock work going on to tackle coronavirus among scientists at the moment.

She writes:

In these unprecedented times, we need strong, rapid links between summarising existing evidence, identifying specific knowledge gaps, and setting up the infrastructure for new research. Traditionally, this takes years. It’s now taking days. Sorry if we’re all a bit grumpy :-).

Updated at 8.57am GMT

8.36am GMT

Cases in Taiwan increase to 23, as travel ban comes in

The Central Epidemic Command Center in Taiwan has announced 23 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, bringing the total in the country to 100 since the outbreak began.

Taiwan will bar all foreign nationals from entering Taiwan from Thursday. All Taiwanese citizens and foreign nationals with the necessary documentation who arrive in Taiwan from overseas will be required to be quarantined at home for 14 days, Chen said.

People in Taiwan who have been in or transited through Europe, Turkey, Egypt or Dubai between March 5 and 14 will be required to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days, effective immediately.

Readers in Taiwan can follow the Focus Taiwan website for live updates.

8.27am GMT

Baby tests positive for Covid-19 in Norfolk, UK

A baby has tested positive for Covid-19 at the James Paget University hospital in Gorleston in Norfolk, the trust has said.

Two other positive cases have been identified at the hospital and all three were already being treated in isolation.

A hospital spokesman said: “An extensive ‘contact tracing’ exercise is now under way by Public Health England to trace anyone who might have had close (face-to-face) contact.

“Close contacts will be given health advice about symptoms and what to do if they become unwell in the 14 days after they had contact with the confirmed case.”

Updated at 8.28am GMT

8.24am GMT

Lead coronavirus scientist has symptoms of Covid-19

Prof Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London, one of the lead authors on a paper that predicted about 250,000 people could die if the UK did not switch tactics, has said he has symptoms of Covid-19.

Updated at 8.29am GMT

8.22am GMT

Coronavirus cases in France increase by 1,097 in 24 hours

The number of coronavirus cases has risen in France to 7,730, which is 1,097 more than the previous 24 hours, writes my colleague Kim Willsher.

“There have been 175 deaths, an increase of 27 in a day. Jérôme Salomon, director of the French health authority, said 7% of those infected were under 70 years old. Of the sick, 699 are in intensive care, but 5,000 patients have recovered or are being treated at home. There are 2,575 patients still in hospital, but more than 600 people have been successfully treated and allowed to go home in the last 24 hours alone.

The French PM, Édouard Philippe, spoke on television last night: he warned the government was drawing up the necessary regulations to increase fines for those found breaking the national “confinement” from €38 to €135. This has now been published in the Official Journal so is in now in force. “Stay at home”, he told French citizens.

In the south of France, the influx of Parisians trying to escape to second homes has led to anger in certain places. There is a picture in the Sud Ouest newspaper of a large tag at Cap Ferrat reading: “Paris go home virus”, with the paper reporting that locals are annoyed that many Parisians have arrived from the capital, possibly with the virus.

Updated at 8.34am GMT

8.17am GMT

Qantas grounds 150 aircraft

The Qantas Group has announced it is slashing international capacity by 90% and domestic capacity by 60% until the end of May, according to the website Airline.net.

The cuts will be phased in from the end of this month with routes to be affected announced within the next few days. The move will mean 150 aircraft will be grounded, including most of the wide-body fleet.

Updated at 8.25am GMT

8.07am GMT

Social distancing impacts the UK high street

Rebecca Smithers writes:

Meanwhile, the British government’s new rules on ‘social distancing’ are now starting to have a huge impact on the high street, in addition to large-scale restaurant and pub closures.

The coffee chain Pret a Manger (which has 530 branches in the UK) has just announced that it is switching to a takeaway-only format from today, which means customers cannot sit inside to eat their purchases. It said that deliveries will continue through Deliveroo, “but the key priority is to try to reduce points of contact in shops and to miniimse the time it takes for people to get the food they need and leave safely and quickly”. Surplus food will continue to be donated to the homeless at the end of the day. And to help frontline healthworkers helping to fight coronavirus, it is offering free hot drinks and a 50% discount on all other purchases to NHS workers.

The department store Selfridges will close its four physical stores in London, Birmingham and Manchester from 7pm this evening, after initially saying it would shorten opening hours.

It tweeted that it had made the decision “with a heavy heart” but would continue online deliveries through Selfridges.com. It is understood that at least three members of staff have tested positive for coronavirus in its London flagship store on Oxford Street.

Updated at 8.16am GMT

7.40am GMT

UK National Trust open gardens to the public

The National Trust in the UK has said it is aiming to open as many of its gardens and parks throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland so give people a space to “refresh and relax” during this period of social distancing.

This is Lexy Topping taking over the global coronavirus live blog in the UK office. Thanks to my colleague Helen Sullivan for her efforts.

If you are aware of news stories from around the globe that you think we should cover on the liveblog, please get in touch. I’m on alexandra.topping@theguardian.com and @lexytopping on Twitter.

Updated at 7.52am GMT

7.32am GMT

Summary

  • There is more trouble ahead for financial markets, which are set for another volatile day as the selling frenzy of the past two weeks continued in Asia Pacific on Wednesday, when Australia’s main index lost 6.4%. More significantly, US futures trading suggest renewed losses on Wall Street when markets open in New York later.
  • Amazon workers say the hectic pace of work amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak is devastating for their physical and mental health as they try to keep up with massive new demand.
  • The global death toll is nearing 8,000. The number of deaths from coronavirus around the world has risen to 7,948, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. Infections, meanwhile, are nearing 200,000: there are 198,006 recorded cases worldwide.
  • Saudi Arabia on Wednesday suspended work in most of the private sector for 15 days and directed businesses to implement work-from-home policies to stop the spread of the coronavirus that has infected 171 people in the kingdom.
  • Travellers are scrambling to reach home, after nations began closing their borders, airlines cut flights and governments urged their citizens to return. On Tuesday, Australia joined Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates in calling back its citizens.
  • The WHO has called for aggressive action in south-east Asia. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO’s regional director, said the response in the region needed to be “scaled up”. Hours later, Thailand recorded a jump in cases of nearly 20% to 212.
  • The US death toll passed 100, as coronavirus reached every state. California governor Gavin Newsom warned that most schools in the state will likely remain closed for the rest of the school year – until the end of August – because of coronavirus.
  • There is treatment hope in Japan. Medical authorities in China have said a drug used in Japan to treat new strains of influenza appeared to be effective in coronavirus patients, Japanese media said on Wednesday.
  • ‘Dozens’ of sick and elderly patients have tested positive for coronavirus at South Korea hospital.
  • Non residents have been banned from Taiwan. Authorities have said non-residents will be banned from entering the country from midnight. The restrictions exclude diplomats and holders of alien resident certificates.
  • Two Canadian provinces have called a state of emergency, including the country’s most populous province, Ontario.
  • Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, stepped up the country’s response to the coronavirus crisis by announcing sweeping new measures to try to slow the spread of coronavirus, including a ban on indoor gatherings of more than 100 people, a global do-not-travel order, and strict new rules for visiting aged care homes.
  • Kylie Moore-Gilbert is not among the prisoners released in Iran. British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert has not been reported among the 85,000 prisoners temporarily released from Iranian jails out of fear coronavirus could sweep through the country’s overcrowded prisons.

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, for now. My colleague Alexandra Topping will be taking over today’s live coronavirus pandemic coverage.

Updated at 7.53am GMT

7.28am GMT

‘They don’t care about safety’: Amazon workers struggle with pandemic demand

An Amazon delivery person walks in Times Square following the coronavirus outbreak in New York City.
An Amazon delivery person walks in Times Square following the coronavirus outbreak in New York City.
Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

As the coronavirus spreads across America, many workers are being directed to work from home but staff at Amazon and Whole Foods are being squeezed to keep up with increasing demand caused by Americans stockpiling food and household products.

Amazon is the US’s largest online retailer and it also owns Whole Foods, the largest natural foods grocer in the US, and fifth largest overall in the world.

Workers say the hectic pace of work amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak is devastating for their physical and mental health as they try and keep up with massive new demand. They also have to deal with their own worries and problems coping with the pandemic.

Updated at 7.55am GMT

7.24am GMT

Pakistan’s prime minister has urged calm after its tally of coronavirus cases rose to 245, while Sri Lanka sealed itself off and shut its stock market on Wednesday, fuelling fears that South Asian countries are struggling to stem the pandemic.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Kahn.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Kahn.
Photograph: Yana Paskova/Reuters

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Indian subcontinent rose overnight to 482 as authorities across the region imposed travel restrictions to block the fast- fast-spreading disease that has infected nearly 200,000 people worldwide and killed nearly 8,000 people.
There are fears that inadequate health facilities will be overwhelmed in many parts of the poor, crowded region.
Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan, in a late Tuesday address to the nation, urged citizens to remain calm and not rush to get tested.

“Even the U.S. doesn’t have the resources to test everyone who comes,” he said. “Only those with intense symptoms should go to hospital.”

“There is no need to worry. We will fight this as a nation. And God-willing, we will win this war,” Khan said.

7.21am GMT

US clothing retailer Gap Inc and luxury department store operator Neiman Marcus will close their stores for two weeks, joining other retailers in a vast effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Gap will temporarily shut all Old Navy, Athleta, Banana Republic, Gap, Janie and Jack and Intermix stores across North America, starting 19 March, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

In a separate release, Neiman Marcus said it would shut all Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and Last Call stores in the United States, effective immediately.

Both retailers said they will keep their websites operating for shoppers and provide pay and benefits to store associates affected by the closures during the two-week period.

Numerous retailers including Tiffany & Co, Macy’s Inc, L Brands Inc, Ralph Lauren and American Eagle Outfitters announced temporary store closures on Tuesday, joining Nike Inc and Nordstrom Inc, which made similar announcements in recent days.

The United States has seen a sharp increase in virus cases, with more than 6,469 infected and at least 109 deaths, as of Wednesday.

7.16am GMT

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday suspended work in most of the private sector for 15 days and directed businesses to implement work-from-home policies to stop the spread of the coronavirus that has infected 171 people in the kingdom.

The Saudi Stock Exchange sign is seen at their headquarters in Riyadh on November 3, 2019. Gulf stock markets tumbled on March 16, 2020 in tandem with oil prices amid unprecedented measures against the coronavirus and as Bahrain became the first Arab Gulf country to record a death from the disease.
The Saudi Stock Exchange sign is seen at their headquarters in Riyadh on November 3, 2019. Gulf stock markets tumbled on March 16, 2020 in tandem with oil prices amid unprecedented measures against the coronavirus and as Bahrain became the first Arab Gulf country to record a death from the disease.
Photograph: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images

The human resource ministry directed businesses in the largest Arab economy to close their main offices, reduce staff levels at secondary locations, and take measures to limit contact between workers and monitor them for symptoms of infection.

It outlined exceptions for companies providing vital food and health services as well as utility services for government agencies. Pregnant women, workers over 55 and those with severe pre-existing conditions must be given 14 days additional leave.

The move is the latest in a series of drastic measures by Saudi authorities to combat the outbreak, including closing mosques, schools, restaurants, coffee shops and malls as well as halting international flights and cancelling the Umrah pilgrimage.

More than 1,000 infections and one death have been reported in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council – many linked to travel to neighbouring Iran, which is an epicentre for the outbreak in the Middle East.

7.00am GMT

The latest now on the Japanese drug deemed “effective” on Covid-19 patients:

Medical authorities in China have said a drug used in Japan to treat new strains of influenza appeared to be effective in coronavirus patients, Japanese media said on Wednesday.

Zhang Xinmin, an official at China’s science and technology ministry, said favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, had produced encouraging outcomes in clinical trials in Wuhan and Shenzhen involving 340 patients.

“It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,” Zhang told reporters on Tuesday.

Patients who were given the medicine in Shenzhen turned negative for the virus after a median of four days after becoming positive, compared to a median of 11 days for those who were not treated with the drug, public broadcaster NHK said.

In addition, X-rays confirmed improvements in lung condition in about 91% of the patients who were treated with favipiravir, compared to 62% or those without the drug.

Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, which developed the drug – also known as Avigan – in 2014, has declined to comment on the claims.

Doctors in Japan are using the same drug in clinical studies on coronavirus patients with mild to moderate symptoms, hoping it will prevent the virus from multiplying in patients.

But a Japanese health ministry source suggested the drug was not as effective in people with more severe symptoms. “We’ve given Avigan to 70 to 80 people, but it doesn’t seem to work that well when the virus has already multiplied,” the source told the Mainichi Shimbun.

Updated at 7.05am GMT

6.56am GMT

‘Dozens’ of sick and elderly patients test positive at South Korea hospital

In South Korea, dozens of sick and elderly hospital patients have tested positive for coronavirus, the BBC reports. We’ll have more on this soon.

6.54am GMT

Here now is today’s latest coronavirus pandemic news, at a glance:

  • The global death toll is nearing 8,000. The number of deaths from coronavirus around the world has risen to 7,948, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. Infections, meanwhile, are nearing 200,000: there are 198,006 recorded cases worldwide.
  • Travellers are scrambling to reach home, after nations began closing their borders, airlines cut flights and governments urged their citizens to return. On Tuesday, Australia joined Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates in calling back its citizens.
  • The WHO has called for aggressive action in south-east Asia. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO’s regional director, said the response in the region needed to be “scaled up”. Hours later, Thailand recorded a jump in cases of nearly 20% to 212.
  • The US death toll passed 100, as coronavirus reached every state. California governor Gavin Newsom warned that most schools in the state will likely remain closed for the rest of the school year – until the end of August – because of coronavirus.
  • There is treatment hope in Japan. Shares in the Japanese firm Fujifilm have shot up after medical authorities said a drug developed to treat new strains of influenza appeared to be effective in coronavirus patients.
  • There is more trouble ahead for financial markets, which are set for another volatile day as the selling frenzy of the past two weeks continued in Asia Pacific on Wednesday where Australia’s main index lost 6.4%. More significantly, US futures trading suggest renewed losses on Wall Street when markets open in New York later.
  • Non residents are banned from Taiwan. Authorities have said non-residents will be banned from entering the country from midnight. The restrictions exclude diplomats and holders of alien resident certificates.
  • Two Canadian provinces have called a state of emergency, including the country’s most populous province, Ontario.
  • Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, stepped up the country’s response to the coronavirus crisis by announcing sweeping new measures to try to slow the spread of coronavirus, including a ban on indoor gatherings of more than 100 people, a global do-not-travel order, and strict new rules for visiting aged care homes.
  • Kylie Moore-Gilbert is not among the prisoners released in Iran. British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert has not been reported among the 85,000 prisoners temporarily released from Iranian jails out of fear coronavirus could sweep through the country’s overcrowded prisons.

Updated at 7.28am GMT

6.38am GMT

In Australia, we are getting some more details on how faith communities will manage the government ban on gatherings of more than 100 people.

  • The Lebanese Muslim Association is temporarily suspending all activities at its mosques and prayer halls from Thursday morning. It is encouraging prayer at home. Additional activities and the night prayer during Ramadan will also be suspended. Religious counselling and other services will be offered online and over the phone.
  • The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney earlier today suspended all church gatherings until further notice. He is encouraging churches to provide their services and sermons online or via other communication methods. Easter services will not take place and he will record a video of a Good Friday and Easter Sunday sermon.
  • Sydney synagogues have also suspended services after a recommendation from the Sydney Beth Din.
  • The Permanent Committee of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference was meeting today to determine its response.

6.36am GMT

New Zealand police have been enlisted to check up on people in self-isolation after some tourists refused to comply with mandatory measures.

Twenty cases of the coronavirus have now been recorded in New Zealand, all of them originating from overseas arrivals into the country.

Jacinda Ardern’s government has imposed strict self-quarantine measures on all arrivals into the country, including New Zealanders, and also asked anyone arriving before the announcement to abide by the same guidelines.

However, some travellers have refused to comply, and at least two tourists have been detained and may be deported.

The ministry of health has asked police to assist with the enforcement and this week officers conducted 50 “compliance visits on a random sample group of travellers”.

In a statement police said the visits involve officers “sighting” those in self-isolation and asking them a series of questions about their wellbeing.

Most people were taking the self-isolation requests seriously, police said.

6.30am GMT

Travellers across the world are scrambling to find flights home as governments urged their citizens to return and some nations announced the imminent closure of airports and borders.

Members of the Military Emergency Unit conduct disinfection works at the International Airport in Malaga, Spain, 16 March 2020.
Members of the Military Emergency Unit conduct disinfection works at the International Airport in Malaga, Spain, 16 March 2020.
Photograph: Jorge Zapata/EPA

As coronavirus cases near 200,000 globally, a growing number of countries have imposed lockdowns and barred entry to foreigners. As a result, passengers around the world are navigating rapidly changing travel advice, high fares and cancelled flights.

There have been 7,944 deaths worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

On Tuesday, the Australian government advised citizens to return home as soon as possible by commercial means, warning that overseas travel was becoming “more complex and difficult” as countries impose travel restrictions.

Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates have issued similar blanket advice.

In the UK, the foreign office has continued to issue a flurry of updated guidance for specific countries, warning against all but essential travel to a vast number of countries across Europe, as well as elsewhere. On Tuesday evening, it announced that it was withdrawing some staff from its embassy in Myanmar and told British citizen to leave the country if they were able to do so, adding: “This is due to potential pressures on medical facilities and the risk of air routes out of Myanmar being cancelled.”

6.07am GMT

South Africa has confirmed that the number of Covid-19 cases in the country has risen by 23 to 85, the health ministry said late on Tuesday night.

Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize said there have been eight cases of local transmission.

A woman wears a mask as a preventive measure inside a minibus taxi at the Randburg taxi rank in Johannesburg, on March 17, 2020.
A woman wears a mask as a preventive measure inside a minibus taxi at the Randburg taxi rank in Johannesburg, on March 17, 2020.
Photograph: Michele Spatari/AFP via Getty Images

6.01am GMT

South Korea said on Wednesday it would inject more dollars into its banking system to ensure businesses have enough funding, amid concerns about the deepening global economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

A South Korean woman wears a mask to protect herself from the coronavirus walks along the street on 18 March 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.
A South Korean woman wears a mask to protect herself from the coronavirus walks along the street on 18 March 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.
Photograph: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

The finance ministry and the Bank of Korea announced moves that are expected to beef up dollar supply in the market by USbn to bn, as the coronavirus causes chaos in global financial markets and a scramble for US dollars, Reuters reports.

Authorities will raise a cap on foreign currency forward positions for local banks to 50% of their equity capital from the current 40% starting on Thursday. For foreign banks, the ceiling will be relaxed to 250% from 200%.

South Korean policymakers have unveiled a string of measures in recent days, including an emergency interest rate cut and an extra 11.7 trillion won (.43bn) budget, in a bid to reduce pressure on Asia’s fourth-largest economy and keep its financial system operating normally.

Though the number of new virus cases is declining domestically, they continue to soar internationally, raising fears of a global recession.

5.49am GMT

Sanders pressured to exit in push for unity against twin threats: virus and Trump

For more than three years it seemed impossible to millions of Americans that anything could be more important than voting for an alternative to Donald Trump.

Yet right now the US president is no longer seen as the most pressing threat to national security. The coronavirus crisis has temporarily turned the US presidential election into a sideshow.

Bernie Sanders talks about his plan to deal with the coronavirus pandemic on March 17, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
Bernie Sanders talks about his plan to deal with the coronavirus pandemic on March 17, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
Photograph: berniesanders.com via Getty Images

It was Senator Bernie Sanders who compared it in scale to “a major war” and suggested it may result in more casualties than the US military suffered against Germany and Japan in the second world war.

Now Sanders, who suffered another drubbing in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries in Arizona, Florida and Illinois, is facing calls to make a gesture worthy of wartime and call it quits for the national good. “#DropOutBernie”is trending on Twitter.

Updated at 6.15am GMT

5.46am GMT

Katharine Murphy, Guardian Australia’s political editor here:

There needs to be an overt caveat placed on all political commentary at the moment. Given how rapidly events are changing, and given we are all enduring circumstances well outside any recent frame of reference, we can only snapshot particular moments in time.

Let me be clear. It is dumb, and counterproductive for people like me, the first draft of history people, to bloviate, or grandstand, or speculate, or have righteous feelings, or make wild predictions at a time when people are overwhelmed and deeply anxious. It’s best to report forensically, and share what can be known.

So from where I stand, at the appropriate social distancing ratio from Scott Morrison – this much can be known about the prime minister’s performance on the morning of 18 March.

The prime minister got the tone right. The prime minister accurately and soberly projected the fight Australia and the world is currently in.

Updated at 6.15am GMT

5.41am GMT

The Australian market plunged more than 6.4% on Wednesday, wiping out gains it made on Tuesday.

After a rollercoaster ride this week the benchmark ASX200 index is now back where it was in early April 2016.

Since coronavirus selling gripped the market on 21 February it has shed 30% of its value.

Today it also dropped below the psychologically important 5,000 mark, closing the day at 4,953.2.

The former market darling Afterpay lost a third of its value on Wednesday, with stock that was changing hands for more than just a few weeks ago worth just .07 at the close of trade today.

The fintech, Wednesday’s biggest loser, is heavily exposed to the coronavirus-ravaged retail sector and some analysts question its financial model.

Almost every sector lost ground today, with only utilities rising.

5.40am GMT

Tom Hanks says he feels the blahs but has no fever as he and wife Rita Wilson remain in isolation in an Australian residence after being discharged from a hospital following their coronavirus diagnosis.

The actor posted a picture of a “Corona” typewriter on Instagram with the caption:

Hey folks. Good News: One week after testing Positive, in self-isolation, the symptoms are much the same. No fever but the blahs. Folding the laundry and doing the dishes leads to a nap on the couch. Bad news: My wife @ritawilson has won 6 straight hands of Gin Rummy and leads by 201 points. But I have learned not to spread my Vegemite so thick. I travelled here with a typewriter, one I used to love. We are all in this together. Flatten the curve. Hanx

Tom Hanks posts a description of his self isolation with wife Rita Wilson and a Corona typewriter.
Tom Hanks posts a description of his self isolation with wife Rita Wilson and a Corona typewriter.
Photograph: Twitter

The couple arrived in Australia in late January on the Gold Coast, where an Elvis Presley biopic directed by Baz Luhrmann was to be shot. Hanks plays Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker. The film, slated for release in October 2021, has suspended production, Warner Brothers said.

Updated at 6.14am GMT

5.22am GMT

In Brazil, Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue, which last year saw almost two million visitors, closed at day-end Tuesday and won’t reopen for at least a week.

To contain the virus spread, Brazil’s Chico Mendes Institute on Tuesday ordered the closure of all national parks it oversees, including the one that’s home to the Christ.

It was the latest in a series of escalating measures being taken in response to the outbreak in the city.

Tourists pose for photos in front of the Christ the Redeemer statue during a foggy day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
Tourists pose for photos in front of the Christ the Redeemer statue during a foggy day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
Photograph: Silvia Izquierdo/AP

On Monday, firemen began blaring recordings that urge beachgoers to stay home. On Tuesday, Rio’s Governor Wilson Witzel decreed a state of emergency. They did the same Tuesday, though it was hardly a beach day.

Among other things, Witzel’s decree recommended that restaurants and bars limit themselves to 30% capacity for 15 days, that boats and buses halve their passenger loads, that shopping malls close and people avoid beaches and public pools.

The decree also suspended classes and all other activities and events that entail gatherings.

5.17am GMT

This is just a reminder that you can send any tips, cheerier news, or stories you think I may have missed to me on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

Updated at 6.13am GMT

5.12am GMT

In Argentina, angry employees at a Buenos Aires shopping mall starting banging objects and chanting “Go home! Go home!” at shoppers who defied government self-isolation measures on Tuesday:

5.00am GMT

Taiwan authorities have said non-residents will be banned from entering the country from midnight tonight.

Local residents line up to buy face masks from a pharmacy in New Taipei City on 17 March 17, 2020.
Local residents line up to buy face masks from a pharmacy in New Taipei City on 17 March 17, 2020.
Photograph: Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images

The restrictions exclude diplomats and holders of alien resident certificates.
Anyone entering will still be put under a 14-day home quarantine.
Taiwan, which has been lauded for its response to the virus so far with just 77 confirmed cases, has now begun to address concerns of a second wave of infections brought in by travellers. All new cases in the last two days were imported.

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu also said Taiwan will increase cooperation efforts with the US, including research and production of vaccines.

The US will provide Taiwan materials for 300,000 protective suits while Taiwan will supply weekly exports of 100,000 masks once it has enough for itself. The country has increased production of masks to 11m per week, after banning their export in January.

“This symbolises the close relationship between Taiwan and the United States, and are for the joint efforts to combat the disease. We hope to join hands to contribute to international society,” Wu said.

4.54am GMT

In case you are just joining us:

Earlier today, the World Health Organization has called for “aggressive” action in south-east Asia to combat the fast-spreading coronavirus, warning Tuesday that some countries were heading towards community transmission of the deadly disease. Infections soared across the region in recent weeks, forcing several countries to introduce drastic measures ranging from closing their borders to foreign arrivals and imposing nighttime curfews to closing schools and cancelling sports events.

Global infections are nearing 200,000. Currently, they stand at 198,006, according to Johns Hopkins University.

There have been 7,948 coronavirus-related deaths.

Updated at 6.11am GMT

4.49am GMT

Thailand has reported a spike in cases, with its total rising by 35 to 212.

Most the cases had overseas connections, Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, the director-general of the disease control department, told a news conference in Bangkok on Wednesday. However, some had become infected at a crowded boxing match, he said, while 12 came into contact with recorded patients, Suwannachai said.

4.30am GMT

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, the British-Australian academic jailed in Iran for 18 months, is not among the prisoners released to ease the threat posed by the virus in the country’s penal system.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert
Kylie Moore-Gilbert
Photograph: Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade/PA

Hopes that she might be granted at least some temporary freedom rose when it emerged that 85,000 inmates were being allowed out. One of them is the Anglo-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Our reporter, Ben Doherty, has the full story:

4.20am GMT

Kyrgyzstan records first cases

Kyrgyzstan in central Asia has confirmed its first coronavirus cases with three citizens testing positive after arriving from Saudi Arabia, according to the health ministry, Reuters reports.

It comes a day after the mountainous country closed its borders to all foreigners.

Kyrgyzstan borders China, where the outbreak first began in December, and two of its neighbours, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, also confirmed their first cases this month. All three countries, along with Tajikistan, have moved to ban or limit public events and suspended Friday prayers at mosques.

4.11am GMT

More turmoil ahead for financial markets

Staying with financial matters, we’re in for another extremely volatile day on world stock markets if the current situation in Asia Pacific is anything to go by.

The ASX200 in Sydney has taken yet another battering today, shedding nearly 5% with around an hour to go before the close. It’s a bit better in Japan (perhaps helped by Fujifilm) where the market is up 0.7%. Then we’re up in Shanghai but down in Hong Kong and Seoul.

But more significantly, the US futures market is pointing to another bad day on Wall Street despite Tuesday’s mini rally on Wall Street and on Europe’s beleaguered bourses.

The Dow Jones is set to open down 4% later on and the S&P is showing a drop of nearly 5%.

These are massive falls.

The problem, as identified by most market professionals, is that the US Federal Reserve can splurge all the money it wants but it can’t make a vaccine and the only thing that is going to reverse the downward trend of the markets is a flattening of the global – but especially US – infection rates.

Trihn Nguyen, Asia economist at Naxitis bank in Hong Kong, puts it very pithily:

Three limitations to the Fed: a) can’t cure the virus b) limited to supply of $$ & we still got credit squeeze & so more help on the operational side vs blanket rates; c) burned most of the wood when GDP was positive.

I love that last comment. Winter’s coming and the woodpile has gone.

3.52am GMT

Fujifilm shares leap on treatment hope

This is Martin Farrer taking over the blog for a short time while Helen has a much-deserved break.

We’re keen to inject a bit of optimism into the blog when possible and there is some in a Reuters story about how shares in Fujifilm have jumpped 15% after a Chinese official said the Japanese company’s Avigan anti-flu drug appeared to help coronavirus patients recover.

Fuji

Fujifilm is obviously best known for its camera equipment but one of its subsidiaries makes a drug called Avigan, which is also known as Favipiravir. The drug was approved for use in Japan in 2014.

Reuters says that Zhang Xinmin, an official at China’s science and technology ministry, told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday that Favipiravir has been effective, with no obvious side-effects, in helping coronavirus patients recover,

A Fujifilm spokeswoman said the company had no comment on the Chinese government’s announcement. Fujifilm manufactures Avigan only on receiving orders from the Japanese government and has no sales target for the drug, she said.
Fujifilm shares closed the morning up 14.7% at 5,207 yen, having briefly hit their daily limit high of 5,238 yen.

3.38am GMT

Hong Kong dog that tested ‘weak positive’ for Covid-19 dies

The pet dog in Hong Kong which grabbed attention after it tested positive for Covid-19 has died after returning home to its owner.

The dog was taken into quarantine in February when its owner was diagnosed with Covid-19.

It returned a “weak positive” result over the course of several tests. Hong Kong radio reported this morning that the dog had finally tested negative and was allowed to go home on Saturday. However the owner told officials on Monday that it had died.

Authorities did not say how the dog had died and the owner refused permission for an autopsy.

The dog never showed symptoms or appeared ill, and a blood test showed it had no antibodies.

Health authorities repeatedly said there was no evidence the dog could pass the disease on to a human, and they urged people to continue to care for their pets. Because the dog showed weak positive results from swabs of its nasal cavity, the concern was that the cavity was likely a contaminated surface.

Updated at 6.15am GMT

3.30am GMT

Summary

  • The US death toll passed 100 as coronavirus reached every state. The global infection rate is approaching 200,000, with 197,830. There have been 7,944 deaths worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • Trump’s treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin said unemployment could hit 20% if they didn’t push through a huge economic stimulus as soon as possible. Unemployment peaked at 10% after the financial collapse of 2008. It hit 24.9% in the Great Depression in 1933.
  • Economists at ratings agency S&P say the much-feared worldwide recession has arrived and they now estimate global GDP will grow 1%-1.5% in 2020 with the risk that it could sink even lower.
  • California governor Gavin Newsom warned Tuesday that most schools will likely remain closed for the rest of the school year – until the end of August – because of coronavirus.
  • The World Health Organization called for “aggressive” action in south-east Asia to combat the virus, warning Tuesday that some countries in the region were heading towards community transmission of the deadly disease.
  • Mainland China reported just one new domestic case in the coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday – and a dozen more infections imported from overseas. New cases in Hubei province have now been in the single digits for the past seven days.
  • Australia stepped up its response, announcing an indefinite new ban on indoor groups of 100 people or more, with exemptions for schools, public transport, universities, prisons, courts, supermarkets and worksites. The prime minister, Scott Morrison, said measures could be in place for six months.
  • Australia’s Anglican church suspended all services indefinitely.
  • Nevada governor Steve Sisolak has announced the closure of all non-essential services, including Las Vegas casinos, restaurants and bars.
  • 85,000 prisoners were temporarily released in Iran due to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The death toll in Italy rose by 16% in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number to 2,503. The number of confirmed cases also rose to 31,506.
  • British cultural buildings closed their doors temporarily. These include the Natural History Museum, the British Museum and the Royal Academy.
  • The French Open was postponed, along with the European Championship which has been postponed until 2021, Uefa has decided.
  • The EU is set to endorse the strictest travel ban in its history as France joined Italy and Spain in full lockdown and Donald Trump told Americans to change their behaviour, acknowledging for the first time that beating the coronavirus could take months.

3.20am GMT

More now on the casinos and other businesses closing in Las Vegas:

The Democratic governor Steve Sisolak order Tuesday night – a monthlong closure of casinos and other non-essential businesses like bars, movie theaters and gyms – follows similar moves by more than 10 other governors as states scramble to mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Sisolak’s order gave thousands of businesses a little more than two days prepare. The governor’s order follows an order the mayor of Reno issued Monday night.

The exterior view of the Paris Las Vegas hotel on 18 February, 2020 when it was the venue for tomorrows Democratic Presidential Debate.
The exterior view of the Paris Las Vegas hotel on 18 February, 2020 when it was the venue for tomorrows Democratic Presidential Debate.
Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

3.14am GMT

In US election news – and some context for that alarming potential unemployment figure given by US treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin earlier:

“This Democratic race isn’t pining for the fjords. It is no more. It has ceased to be. Its metabolic processes are now history. This is an ex-presidential contest.

The only reason the news networks could not call the Florida primary as soon as the votes piled up for Joe Biden was because the state’s panhandle voters were still at the polls. Once those polls closed, the obvious was made official: it was a blowout for Biden.

The last time we heard from Bernie Sanders after losing big in the last round of primaries, he said he wanted to debate the former vice-president head-to-head, one-on-one, to press his case directly and finally.

The only topic the American people want to debate is the coronavirus pandemic and the severe recession that looks like the certain outcome of this quasi-national quarantine. Trump’s treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, told Republican senators on Tuesday that unemployment could hit 20% if they didn’t push through a huge economic stimulus as soon as possible.

To put that into context, unemployment peaked at 10% after the financial collapse of 2008. It hit 24.9% in the Great Depression in 1933.

Updated at 6.17am GMT

3.10am GMT

What’s quarantine without a fun way to pass the time? As pandemic-induced social distancing pushes more and more people to the solitude of the home, self-isolators have started coming up with ways to entertain themselves, their neighbours and strangers around the world through social media.

3.03am GMT

In Australia, popular children’s show Bluey more than doubled its viewership between Monday and Tuesday, as more parents and kids spend time at home, Crikey news reports.

ABC children’s TV show Bluey.
ABC children’s TV show Bluey.
Photograph: ABC TV

Updated at 6.17am GMT

2.59am GMT

Las Vegas casinos to close

In the US, Nevada governor Steve Sisolak has announced the closure of all non-essential services.

That includes Las Vegas casinos, restaurants and bars.

Nevada governor Steve Sisolak has ordered a monthlong closure of casinos and other non-essential businesses in order to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.
Nevada governor Steve Sisolak has ordered a monthlong closure of casinos and other non-essential businesses in order to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.
Photograph: Steve Marcus/AP

Updated at 3.15am GMT

2.54am GMT

In Australia, Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies has issued a public statement “suspending all public church gatherings until further notice”.

The decision has been taken in light of the Australian government’s ban public gatherings of 100 or more people.

“We are encouraging all our churches to consider providing their services online or by other communication methods,” he added.

Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies speaks during a church service in 2016.
Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies speaks during a church service in 2016.
Photograph: David Moir/AAP

2.50am GMT

A little more on those China figures now. Mainland China reported just one new domestic case in the coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday – and a dozen more infections imported from overseas.

For the second consecutive day there was only one more fresh infection in Wuhan.

New cases in Hubei province have now been in the single digits for the past seven days.

A deliveryman scans a QR code from an employee of a restaurant as he picks up food over barriers which has been set up to block an entrance to a food street in Jinan, Shandong province, China March 15, 2020.
A deliveryman scans a QR code from an employee of a restaurant as he picks up food over barriers which has been set up to block an entrance to a food street in Jinan, Shandong province, China March 15, 2020.
Photograph: China Daily/Reuters

In recent days, there has been an easing of restrictions in some parts of the province, with China saying it has “basically curbed” the spread of the virus.

An average of 20,000 people are flying into China every day, according to the government, and 10 Chinese provinces and municipalities are imposing mandatory quarantines on those arriving from abroad.

Beijing requires almost all international arrivals to go into 14-day quarantine in designated hotels in the capital.

2.44am GMT

Guatemala announced Tuesday that it was suspending incoming flights carrying immigrants and asylum seekers sent by the United States, citing concerns over the global coronavirus pandemic.

The measure covered two flights of Guatemalan deportees scheduled for the day, as well as indefinitely suspending flights carrying people from other Central American nations who were being sent to Guatemala under an asylum cooperation agreement with the United States that is part of Washingtons broader crackdown on immigration at the US-Mexico border.

Sellers of La Terminal market disinfect their stalls in Guatemala City, on March 17, 2020. -
Sellers of La Terminal market disinfect their stalls in Guatemala City, on March 17, 2020. –
Photograph: Johan Ordóñez/AFP via Getty Images

2.37am GMT

The British foreign office has advised its citizens in Myanmar to leave the country if they are able to do so. “This is due to potential pressures on medical facilities and the risk of air routes out of Myanmar being cancelled,” the foreign office said in its updated travel guidance.

Men clean a closed cinema in Yangon, Myanmar, 16 March 2020.
Men clean a closed cinema in Yangon, Myanmar, 16 March 2020.
Photograph: Lynn Bo Bo/EPA

Some staff and their dependents in the British Embassy are being withdrawn. Core staff will remain to continue critical work including consular assistance.
“The worldwide coronavirus outbreak is expected to put significant pressure on Myanmar’s medical facilities. They may not be able to offer routine care,” UK travel guidance warns.

Myanmar has no confirmed cases of coronavirus, despite sharing a border with China.
A spokesperson for Myanmar’s government recently claimed that people’s “lifestyle and diet” protected them from the disease.

2.30am GMT

Thousands of foreign travellers need to leave the northern Philippines by Friday or they will be stranded in the region, which has been placed under quarantine because of a growing number of coronavirus infections, officials said Tuesday.

Rows of taxis that were instructed by police to stop operations while the government implements the “enhanced community quarantine” as a precautionary measure against the spread of the new coronavirus in Metro Manila, Philippines, early Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
Rows of taxis that were instructed by police to stop operations while the government implements the “enhanced community quarantine” as a precautionary measure against the spread of the new coronavirus in Metro Manila, Philippines, early Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
Photograph: Aaron Favila/AP

President Rodrigo Duterte declared an enhanced community quarantine on the main island of Luzon that requires millions of people to stay mostly at home and restricts land, air and sea travel to fight the Covid-19 disease.

The drastic moves announced by Duterte on Monday night, which include the suspension of mass transport, caught many by surprise and sparked traffic jams and confusion in many areas.

Hundreds of taxis were stopped by police along metropolitan Manilas main EDSA highway for violating the transport ban and made to wait for hours in long rows on the sidelines. Many drivers said they were unaware of the ban and were eventually allowed to leave without fines.

The Philippines has reported 187 cases of infections, according to the Department of Health, which confirmed Tuesday that one of its officials was among those infected.

Fourteen people have died, the highest toll in Southeast Asia.

Transport Undersecretary Raul del Rosario said foreign tourists and travelers can opt to leave Luzon, where Manila is located, within 72 hours to avoid being stranded, because all flights from the region will be suspended.

When the deadline arrives, they will have no option because all flights, domestic and international, will be canceled, del Rosario told a news conference.

Many passengers jammed Manilas main airport Tuesday.

Some airlines have already canceled flights, complicating the problems of outbound travellers.

2.24am GMT

Australia steps up response

More on Australia’s latest steps in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which were announced Thursday morning.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison told Australians to “stop hoarding” as he announced sweeping new measures to try to slow the spread of coronavirus, including a ban on indoor gatherings of more than 100 people, a global do-not-travel order, and strict new rules for visiting aged care homes.

In a massive step-up of the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, the prime minister announced that a national cabinet of state and federal leaders had agreed on Tuesday night to an indefinite new ban on indoor groups of 100 people or more, with exemptions for schools, public transport, universities, prisons, courts, supermarkets and worksites.

The new measure, to be effective immediately, comes after a ban on mass gatherings of more than 500 people was put in place on Monday, prompting the widespread cancellation of sporting and cultural events.

While declaring a national human biosecurity emergency under the Biosecurity Act on Tuesday morning, Morrison ruled out an Italian-style national lockdown and urged calm, taking aim at those panic buying, saying it was “un-Australian” and unnecessary.

“Stop hoarding,” he said. “I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it. It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis.

2.21am GMT

Florida, Illinois and Arizona held primaries on Tuesday despite the coronavirus outbreak – and there were predictable glitches.

Voters faced confusion, a shortage of poll workers, and shifting or closed polling stations on Tuesday in Florida, Illinois and Arizona – the three key states that still held their primaries despite concerns over coronavirus and pressures to delay the elections.

2.19am GMT

The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have hit back at China in separate statements following the large-scale expulsion of US journalists, accusing Beijing of having a cold war mindset and carrying out an “unprecedented attack on freedom of the press”.

The New York Times’s executive editor said the move to force out foreign reporters was “especially irresponsible” during the coronavirus pandemic.

2.09am GMT

UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has just emailed its customers announcing rations. The company wrote in an email seen by the Guardian:

“From tomorrow, Wednesday 18th March, customers will be able to buy a maximum of three of any grocery product and a maximum of two on the most popular products including toilet paper, soap and UHT milk. We have enough food coming into the system, but are limiting sales so that it stays on shelves for longer and can be bought by a larger numbers of customers.”

A sign warning customers of product shortages outside a Sainsbury’s Local supermarket in central Birmingham, Britain, March 15, 2020.
A sign warning customers of product shortages outside a Sainsbury’s Local supermarket in central Birmingham, Britain, March 15, 2020.
Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

The chain has already closed its cafes as well as meat, fish and pizza service counters to free up its staff and delivery network for essentials.

Updated at 6.18am GMT

2.06am GMT

Hong Kong reported 10 new cases on Tuesday, equalling its highest daily record from February. Half were imported cases.

While the region is widely recognised as one of a few countries to have had success in keeping the infection rate low, authorities are very concerned about a second wave. It has issued an outbound travel red alert for everywhere in the world other than Macau, Taiwan, and mainland China.

Passengers wear protective face mask and goggles at Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong, China March 17, 2020.
Passengers wear protective face mask and goggles at Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong, China March 17, 2020.
Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

From Thursday all international arrivals must undergo mandatory quarantine at home for 14 days, and the announcement sparked a rush of people – particularly students – to come home.

Two students who flew back from London on London and a 24-year-old who was working in Denmark declared on arrival that they felt unwell. They were taken to hospital immediately, where they tested positive for the virus.

Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Hong Kong centre for health protection urged students not to come back from overseas if they are already feeling sick.

“Those who have symptoms should seek medical advice in the local health authority instead of going back to Hong Kong because this may pose risks to other people who are travelling on the flight,” Chuang said.

“For those without symptoms, it depends on their situation. If they are advised by their school, or their parents want them to come back to Hong Kong, I think they can. But they have to take good personal environmental hygiene measures, especially during their stay in the airport as well as on the flight.”

2.03am GMT

Joe Biden has won both the Florida and Illinois primaries, building on a remarkable surge as he barrels toward the Democratic presidential nomination at a time when the nation is gripped by concern about the new coronavirus.

Arizona polls indicate Biden has an advantage there as well.

Biden celebrated his primary victories in Florida and Illinois, saying his campaign had had a “very good night” and moved closer to securing the nomination.

The former vice president then made a pitch for unity, directly addressing the supporters of Bernie Sanders and asserting it was time to “put politics aside.”

Biden said he and Sanders shared a “common vision” to provide Americans with affordable health care and reduce income inequality in the country.

Biden commended the “remarkable passion and tenacity” of Sanders’ supporters, asserting they had “shifted the fundamental conversation in this country.”

“I hear you,” Biden told his opponent’s supporters. “I know what’s at stake. I know what we have to do.”

The message was clearly meant to unify Democratic voters as Biden looks ahead to his likely general-election race against Trump.

In this file photo taken on March 12, 2020 former US Vice President and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus, during a press event in Wilmington, Delaware.
In this file photo taken on March 12, 2020 former US Vice President and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus, during a press event in Wilmington, Delaware.
Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Bernie Sanders started speaking before the polls closed Tuesday and didn’t mention the election results, instead sticking to policy while addressing supporters via livestream. During the coronavirus outbreak, he said, We must make sure everyone who has a job right now receives the pay checks they need.”

Donald Trump has officially secured the Republican presidential nomination after winning the Florida and Illinois primaries tonight.

1.55am GMT

New York City may soon compel most people to stay in their homes except in emergencies or when shopping for essentials, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday, an order already imposed by San Francisco to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

View of empty streets in New York’s Times Square, 17 Mar 2020.
View of empty streets in New York’s Times Square, 17 Mar 2020.
Photograph: William Volcov/REX/Shutterstock

Any decision to issue the “shelter-in-place” order is likely to be made in the next 48 hours, but even if imposed, it would likely still allow more than 8 million residents to make necessary trips out to buy food or medicine, the mayor said as the number of confirmed cases in the city rose to 814.

City officials acknowledged on Tuesday they still did not have all the medical resources they were seeking and that they had been receiving protective equipment from the federal government that was past its expiry date.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he did not think sheltering in place would be effective. “I don’t think you can really do a policy like that just in one part of the state. So I don’t think it works,” he told CNN.

“As a matter of fact, I’m going so far that I don’t even think you can do a statewide policy,” Cuomo said.

The city has already asked New Yorkers to stay home when they can and has closed schools and limited bars and restaurants to takeout or delivery.

But if there is still not enough compliance, the city may soon enforce new rules restricting people to their homes unless they can prove they have a good reason to stay outside, Emergency Management Commissioner Deanne Criswell said in an interview.

1.46am GMT

Google has been accused by two US senators of seeking to exploit consumers fear over Covid-19 for profit following allegations that the company is targeting “predatory” and “price-gouging” ads for scarce goods, including protective masks and hand sanitiser, to vulnerable users.

Mark Warner and Richard Blumenthal, two Democratic senators, have called on the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to address what they called Google’s “pattern of misbehaviour”.

In a letter to both the DOJ and FTC, the senators said the ads were being sold by Google even though they contradict the company’s own policy against capitalising on “sensitive events”.

Google said on 10 March that it would ban the ads, but media reports since then indicate that the ads have continued to appear, especially in news articles associated with the pandemic.

Mark Warmer tweets abut Google allegedly exploiting coronavirus fears.
Mark Warmer tweets abut Google allegedly exploiting coronavirus fears.
Photograph: Twitter

1.43am GMT

South Korea reported 93 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing its total infections to 8,413, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The daily tally is slightly up from 84 recorded on Tuesday but marked the fourth day in a row that the country has reported fewer than 100 new infections.

A worker wearing a face mask watches his smart phone under lanterns in preparation for the upcoming birthday of Buddha on April 30 at the Chogyesa temple in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, March 8, 2020.
A worker wearing a face mask watches his smart phone under lanterns in preparation for the upcoming birthday of Buddha on April 30 at the Chogyesa temple in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, March 8, 2020.
Photograph: Ahn Young-joon/AP

1.40am GMT

Latest China figures

Mainland China had 13 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the country’s National Health Commission said, down from 21 cases a day earlier.

Of the 13 new cases, all but one were imported. The total number of important cases is now 155.

Tourists separated from each other by cardboard have a lunch outside a restaurant at a scenic spots amid the coronavirus outbreak on March 16, 2020 in Chongqing, China.
Tourists separated from each other by cardboard have a lunch outside a restaurant at a scenic spots amid the coronavirus outbreak on March 16, 2020 in Chongqing, China.
Photograph: China News Service/China News Service via Getty Images

That brings the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 80,894, the health authority said in a statement on Wednesday.

The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 3,237 as of the end of Tuesday, up by 11 from the previous day. All new deaths were in Hubei province. Only one of these was outside the capital city of Wuhan.

1.33am GMT

WHO says ‘aggressive’ action needed in in south-east Asia

The World Health Organization called for “aggressive” action in south-east Asia to combat the fast-spreading coronavirus, warning Tuesday that some countries were heading towards community transmission of the deadly disease.

Infections have soared across the region in recent weeks, forcing several countries to introduce drastic measures ranging from closing their borders to foreign arrivals and imposing nighttime curfews to closing schools and cancelling sports events.

There are concerns that weaker public health care systems in many or the region’s countries will be unable to cope with a major outbreak.

“We need to immediately scale up all efforts to prevent the virus from infecting more people,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO’s regional director.

“We clearly need to do more, and urgently.”

Thousands of Malaysian endured hours-long queues to enter Singapore in the last hours before the enforcement of a travel ban imposed by the Malaysian government to curb the spread of coronavirus. Malaysians are barred from travelling abroad from 18 to 31 March 2020.
Thousands of Malaysian endured hours-long queues to enter Singapore in the last hours before the enforcement of a travel ban imposed by the Malaysian government to curb the spread of coronavirus. Malaysians are barred from travelling abroad from 18 to 31 March 2020.
Photograph: Timothy David/THE STRAITS TIMES/SPH/EPA

Malaysia has the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia with 673 cases, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

Many of the country’s infections have been linked to a global Islamic event held last month and attended by almost 20,000 people.

On Monday, the prime minister announced a ban on Malaysians travelling overseas.

1.18am GMT

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has told the country that hoarding is ‘unAustralian’:

A few days ago Morrison had a similar message for the country, saying he hoped Australians would not “lose our sense of Australianness in all of this”.

1.13am GMT

California schools likely to remain closed for rest of school year

California governor Gavin Newsom warned Tuesday that most schools will likely remain closed for the rest of the school year because of coronavirus.

The school year in California typically runs from the end of August to the beginning of June.

Currently, about 6.1 million students are out of school, as 98.8% of the state’s schools have shut down to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Two middle school students off school after schools shut down due to Covid-19 walk along the San Francisco Bay – where the Grand Princess cruise ship is moored for a two week quarantine period in Alameda, California, U.S. March 16, 2020.
Two middle school students off school after schools shut down due to Covid-19 walk along the San Francisco Bay – where the Grand Princess cruise ship is moored for a two week quarantine period in Alameda, California, U.S. March 16, 2020.
Photograph: Kate Munsch/Reuters

“I would plan and assume it is unlikely that many of these schools, few if any, will open before the summer break,” Newsom said in a news conference.

As of Monday night, there were 472 positive cases in California, and 11 deaths.

Newsom said the state has released publicly the detailed guidelines to homeschool curricula, as well as put an emphasis on online learning. “We want to make sure that learning is still occurring, he said.

“We will get back to the life we have lived,” he said. “I get asked every day if this is the new normal. This is a moment in time.”

Updated at 6.18am GMT

12.57am GMT

US unemployment could read 20%: Mnuchin

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned Republican senators on Tuesday that failure to act on a proposed coronavirus rescue package could lead to US unemployment as high as 20% and lasting economic damage, a person familiar with the closed-door meeting said.

Mnuchin met with senators to persuade them to pass a US trillion stimulus package that would send cash to Americans within two weeks and backstop airlines and other companies.

United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, second right, joined by US President Donald Trump, left.
United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, second right, joined by US President Donald Trump, left.
Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Updated at 3.30am GMT

12.52am GMT

Eight new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in New Zealand today, all from people recently arrived from overseas. The total number of coronavirus in New Zealand is now 20.

“We expected more cases,” director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.
Bloomfield urged those who had arrived from overseas before the Monday self-isolation measures came into force to “voluntarily self-isolate” to protect the community.

Covid-19 isolation forms for entry into New Zealand are seen on March 17, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Covid-19 isolation forms for entry into New Zealand are seen on March 17, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

150 “close contacts” of a student from Logan Park High School in Dunedin will be tested for the virus, after the student positive after catching it from a family member. The high school is closed for the rest of the week. No other schools have been asked to close in New Zealand, and the ministry of education is urging parents to continue sending their children to school.

Meanwhile police have been undertaking self-isolation compliance visits, dropping in on a random sample group of travellers who arrived into New Zealand after the new self-isolation requirements came into effect on Monday.

In a statement police said the ministry of health had requested police conduct the visits to check on the “compliance and welfare” of 50 individuals.

The visits involved police “visually sighting” those in self-isolation, and asking them questions about their well-being.

Police said they were “pleased with the high level of compliance with most people taking the isolation seriously”.

12.45am GMT

Global recession is already here, says S&P

Economists at ratings agency S&P say the much-feared worldwide recession has arrived and they now estimate global GDP will grow 1%-1.5% in 2020 with the risk that it could sink even lower.

The economic impact of coronavirus on China was much greater than initially thought, chief economist Paul Gruenwald said in a note on Wednesday, and the increasingly severe lockdown in Europe and the US will continue to crush demand.

“The initial data from China suggests that its economy was hit far harder than projected, though a tentative stabilisation has begun,” said Gruenwald. “Europe and the U.S. are following a similar path, as increasing restrictions on person-to-person contacts presage a demand collapse that will take activity sharply lower in the second quarter before a recovery begins later in the year.”

A woman wearing a mask crosses the street in Times Square in Manhattan on March 17, 2020 in New York City.
A woman wearing a mask crosses the street in Times Square in Manhattan on March 17, 2020 in New York City.
Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

The S&P team have also been looking at Asia-Pacific and predict that growth in the region will more than halve to less than 3%. That’s according to an article S&P Global Ratings published today, titled “Asia-Pacific Recession Guaranteed.”

“An enormous first-quarter shock in China, shutdowns across the U.S. and Europe, and local virus transmission guarantees a deep recession across Asia-Pacific,” said Shaun Roache, the chief Asia-Pacific economist.

“By recession, we mean at least two quarters of well below-trend growth sufficient to trigger rising unemployment.

“Our estimate of permanent income losses is likely to at least double to more than US0 billion,” said Roache. “For credit markets, a key question is how these losses are distributed across sovereigns, firms, banks, and households.”

China is gradually recovering from an enormous economic blow early in 2020. February data confirm a huge shock to activity in the first quarter. Investment accounts for about 45% of China’s economy–and fixed asset investment in January and February combined plunged by almost 25% compared with a year ago. Over the same period, industrial production and retail sales fell by 14% and 21%.

“These are unprecedented numbers,” said Mr. Roache. “This not only confirms a hard hit to China’s growth but indicates that the authorities are not smoothing the data.”

Updated at 6.19am GMT

12.43am GMT

Police in Puyallup, Washington have asked criminals to stop committing crimes in light of the coronavirus epidemic.

The Puyallup Police Department posted on Facebook:

“Due to local cases of #Covid-19, PPD is asking all criminal activities and nefarious behavior to cease. We appreciate your anticipated cooperation in halting crime & thank all the criminals in advance. We will certainly let you know when you can resume your normal criminal behavior. Until then…. #washyourhands & #behaveyourself”

Puyallup, Washington police department asks that criminal activities cease
Puyallup, Washington police department asks that criminal activities cease
Photograph: Facebook

12.38am GMT

US death toll passes 100 as virus reaches every state

The US death toll has passed 100, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The total number of coronavirus-related deaths stands at 108. The number of infections across the country, where the virus has now reached every state, is 6,423, making it the eighth-highest globally.

A traveler stands at the information desk at Grand Central Terminal, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in New York.
A traveler stands at the information desk at Grand Central Terminal, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in New York.
Photograph: Mary Altaffer/AP

West Virginia became the last of the 50 US states to report a positive case of new coronavirus on Tuesday, meaning the pandemic has now touched every part of the world’s richest and most powerful nation.

12.32am GMT

Watch as Ireand’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, delivers stark warnings and calls for unity in the wake of the coronavirus crisis:

Speaking on St Patrick’s Day, Varadkar called for citizens to isolate, for pubs and restaurants to close and social gatherings to be cancelled. Varadkar also said the most vulnerable would be looked after, insisting banks, government and utilities were there to help.

12.24am GMT

Summary

Coronavirus is now in every US state, more European and other countries are in lockdown and urging citizens to return home and the Australian government has warned of a possible six months of isolation measures.

Around the world, people are trying to return to their home countries or coming to terms with being stuck where they are for the time being. Stay with us for the latest developments.

  • Criminal trials are to be halted in England and Wales, the lord chief justice announced. Lord Burnett said no new trial should start in any crown court unless it is expected to last for three days or fewer. Any longer cases due to start before the end of April are to be postponed.
  • Australians were told to expect at least six months of severe disruption. The prime minister and chief medical officer delivered a series of new restrictions, saying Australians should avoid international travel and groups of more than 100 people, as well as other measures.
  • The virus reached every US state as West Virginia became the last to diagnose a case. All 50 states in the union now have at least one confirmed case. The USA has seen 93 deaths as a result of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.
  • The UK government announced that £330bn in business loans would be made available to support firms struggling to cope with the repercussions of the outbreak.
  • 85,000 prisoners were temporarily released in Iran due to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The death toll in Italy has risen by 16% in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number to 2,503. The number of confirmed cases also rose to 31,506.
  • British cultural buildings have closed their doors temporarily. These include the Natural History Museum, the British Museum and the Royal Academy.
  • The French Open has been postponed, along with the European Championship which has been postponed until 2021, Uefa has decided.
  • The EU is set to endorse the strictest travel ban in its history as France joined Italy and Spain in full lockdown and Donald Trump told Americans to change their behaviour, acknowledging for the first time that beating the coronavirus could take months.
  • The UK’s chief scientific advisor said that around 55,000 people in the country have coronavirus and the aim is for fewer than 20,000 people to die from it.
  • Britain’s three largest airports have warned that they may have to close down operations unless there is government intervention to help them weather the coronavirus crisis.
  • Saudi Arabia is to stage a virtual G20 summit in the coming days in a bid to show world leaders have coordinated medical and economic plans to control coronavirus.

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