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Trump invokes production law to compel GM to supply ventilators | US news


Donald Trump has bowed to overwhelming pressure and invoked a law that enables him to compel General Motors to mass produce breathing equipment for coronavirus sufferers.

For days the US president has resisted calls to use the Defense Production Act (DPA), claiming “we’re a country not based on nationalsing our business” and even drawing comparisons with the socialist government of Venezuela.

But Trump finally shifted position on Friday as he came under criticism from state governors, Democrats and doctors for playing down a nationwide shortage of ventilators, which enable a person with compromised lungs to keep breathing.

Covid-19 is a respiratory illness. Most who contract it recover but it can be fatal, particularly among older people and those with underlying health problems.

Trump announced he had signed a presidential memorandum directing his health secretary to use “any and all authority available under the Defense Production Act to require General Motors to accept, perform, and prioritize Federal contracts for ventilators”.

He added: “Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course.

“GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”


The decision followed 24 hours of confusion in which Trump initially expressed scepticism about the dire warnings of ventilator shortages, particularly in New York, where medical officials say the situation is desperate.

“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” he told the Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday night.

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go into major hospitals sometimes they’ll have two ventilators, and now all of a sudden they’re saying: ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”

The comments provoked a backlash and on Friday morning Trump appeared to shift gear, lambasting GM for allegedly over-promising and over-charging. In tweets littered with capital letters and exclamation marks, he also urged Ford to churn out ventilators.

“As usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out,” he wrote. “They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, ‘very quickly’. Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar. Always a mess with Mary B.”

The “Mary B” reference was to GM’s chief executive. Mary Barra, as Trump renewed his grievance with her for closing and selling a factory in a state vital to his re-election campaign.

He added: “General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!”

The tweet stood in sharp contrast to a message sent in May last year, praising the decision to sell.

The comments came after a New York Times report that the White House had backed away from announcing a major ventilator deal with GM and Ventec Life Systems because the cost was too high.

Trump also tweeted he might “Invoke the ‘P’”, then clarified that he meant the DPA, which grants the president power to compel companies to expand industrial production of key materials or products for national security. Small-government conservatives had urged against such a move, suggesting the threat of the law would be leverage enough.

In a separate tweet, Trump said the federal government had bought a large quantity of ventilators from a number of companies, and that details would be announced later on Friday.

Critics say Trump ignored early warnings about the threat of the pandemic and had he acted sooner, mass production of ventilators would now be well under way.

Experts warn that the US is hundreds of thousands of machines short of what it need to treat a sharply rising number of coronavirus patients.

New York, Michigan, Louisiana and Washington state are current hot spots and the total of US cases has surpassed those confirmed in China and Italy. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, by Friday there were about 94,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the US and more than 1,400 deaths.

Hillary Clinton, a former New York senator and secretary of state, tweeted: “A month ago, Trump said: ‘It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.’ Yesterday, he said: ‘I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.’

“What will it take to get [him’] to listen to experts instead of his own hunches?”





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BBC QT: Matt Hancock sheepishly admits statutory sick pay is NOT ENOUGH to live on | UK | News


In an impassioned plea on the panel TUC Chief, Frances O’Grady urged the government to consider not just to focus on bailing out CEO’s, but all workers. Ms O’Grady then brought up the fact that the current statuary sick pay amount is disproportional to the costs of living when a person is unable to work through ill-health.

She said: “We don’t just bail out the boardrooms, we’ve got to bail out workers.

“Statutory sick pay, £94 pounds a week, Matt, I think you would be the first one to say, that you couldn’t live on that, I don’t think any of us could.”

This statement appeared to catch Matt Hancock off guard, as he blurted out: “No.”

Fiona Bruce hit back: “But you expect others to live on it?”

Mr Hancock replied: “No, I think we’ve got to support everybody, I think we’ve got to support businesses to help support their staff, we want businesses to support their staff, the best thing is if people stay in employment.”

“This is a once in a century event,” he added

The QT host retorted: “We know that, but the prime minister said today, businesses keep your employees on, support them, as we’re going to support you.

READ MORE: Coronavirus UK: Boris Johnson makes URGENT plea to former NHS workers

“ We all need to come together to support each other as a country.

“The only organisation that is big enough to do that in the magnitude of this calamity is the government, so absolutely we’re going to come to the aid of businesses as fast as we can. so that businesses can keep their staff on.”

Fiona interjected the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care by pointing out that chef Angela Hartnett on the panel had already had to let go of her staff.

She said: “Angela’s already let hers go.”

Mr Hancock: “No, she’s actually kept them on, although unpaid for now, so we need to come to Angela’s aid, because when this is over.

“I want Angela able to open her restaurants again. “

“We’ve got to look after people, we’ve got to look after businesses, as well as fight the disease.”

“We’ve got to use the whole resources of the state to do this.” He confirmed.



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Coronavirus live news: EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tests positive | World news


French police officers patrol and control citizens while a strick lockdown comes into in effect to stop the spread of the Covid-19

French police officers patrol and control citizens while a strick lockdown comes into in effect to stop the spread of the Covid-19 Photograph: Laurent VU/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

France has suggested extending a two-week lockdown to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus as the interior minister blasted “idiots” who flout home confinement rules and put others at risk, AFP reports.

President Emmanuel Macron has ordered French residents to stay at home except for essential excursions such as going to the doctor, walking the dog, or going for a solitary run, and banned any gatherings.

For a two-week period that began Tuesday, people can go to work only if their employer cannot make tele-commuting possible.

But news reports have shown groups of friends and families strolling in parks despite the clampdown, prompting calls from some officials for even stricter limits.

Many have been observed ignoring the one-metre (three feet) safe inter-personal distance in queues at the essential businesses that were allowed to stay open.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said people ignoring the measures were “idiots”.

“There are people who underestimate the risk… There are people who think they are modern-day heroes by breaking the rules while they are in fact idiots,” he told Europe 1 radio.

Macron on Thursday urged companies and workers to continue their activities “in compliance with the health safety rules”.

Genevieve Chene, who heads France’s public health agency, said between two and four weeks are needed for the outbreak to be adequately contained.

“Within two to three weeks we should be able to observe a slightly different dynamic” to the outbreak’s momentum, she told Franceinfo radio, and “a significant braking” within two to four weeks.

“It is likely that it is indeed necessary to extend (the containment measures) in order for the braking to be sufficient,” Chene said.

Meanwhile, the French government has started requisitioning hotel rooms for homeless people to occupy during the confinement period, Housing Minister Julien Denormandie announced.

More than 170 rooms will be made available in Paris by the end of the week, and the government has identified 80 sites elsewhere across the country to accomodate the country’s estimated 250,000 homeless people.



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The government’s reasoning for social distancing – Channel 4 News



16 Mar 2020

Our health and social care correspondent was at today’s briefing at Number 10, where the Prime Minister told people they should stop all non-essential contact and travel to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Our health and social care correspondent was at today’s briefing at Number 10, where the Prime Minister told people they should stop all non-essential contact and travel to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.



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Italy reports 368 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours: Latest updates | News


Italy on Sunday reported 368 new deaths from the coronavirus outbreak as the country’s death toll hit 1,809 while the number of positive cases rose to 24,747 from 21,157 on Saturday, the country’s civil protection authority said.

Governments around the world have stepped up restrictions on the movement of their citizens to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed nearly 5,800 people with over 153,000 infected globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

More:

Spain became the second European country to impose a nationwide lockdown after 2,000 new cases were confirmed and the number of reported deaths doubled.

Iran announced more than 100 people have died in the past 24 hours, with the confirmed cases nearing 14,000. Tehran said its fight against coronavirus is being severely hampered by US sanctions.

In the Philippines, the capital Manila has been sealed off, with its 12 million residents told to avoid travel for a month. Schools in the city have been closed and large events banned.

In the United States, increased screening measures for people returning from Europe have caused chaos at airports.

Here are the latest updates:

Sunday, March 15

20:15 GMT – Dutch queue for cannabis as coronavirus closes cafes

Cannabis smokers queued up outside Dutch “coffee shops” after the government ordered their closure to beat the coronavirus outbreak.

Customers lined up in their dozens as they tried to beat a deadline for the closure of the marijuana cafes and stockpile weed supplies for what could be weeks of lockdown.




Can coronavirus be contained in conflict zones?

19:55 GMT – Restaurants, health clubs to close in Qatar

All health clubs such as spas and restaurants in hotels in Qatar will be effectively closed, the Qatar National Tourism Council announced in statement.

The statement said: “Closure of all restaurants in the hotel establishments except for providing room services, catering services outside the hotel establishment, and takeaway services.”

19:44 GMT – Iran reports 113 new virus deaths as containment concerns mount

The official leading Iran’s response to the new coronavirus acknowledged on Sunday the pandemic could overwhelm health facilities in his country, which is battling the worst outbreak in the Middle East while under heavy US sanctions.

Iran’s health ministry reported another 113 deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 724 with nearly 14,000 confirmed cases. It was the biggest single-day jump in fatalities since the virus was first reported in the country.

Read more here.

19:30 GMT – Qatar suspends entry of non-Qataris in moves to shield 

Qatar said it would ban non-Qataris from entering the country for two weeks as of Wednesday and announced measures to support the economy including providing 75 billion riyals ($20.5 billion) in financial incentives to the private sector.

The government will also instruct state funds to increase their investment in the local bourse by 10 billion riyals and the central bank will provide additional liquidity to banks and encourage them to provide a six-month grace period on loan payments and private sector obligations.

The government said it would ban inbound flights, with the exception of cargo and transit flights, starting Wednesday night for 14 days as part of measures to contain the spread of the infection. The entry ban does not apply to Qatari citizens.

18:51 GMT – Ukraine Railways to halt international trains from March 17

State-run Ukrainian railways company Ukrzaliznytsia will suspend all international passenger trains from March 17 in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the company said.

The Ukrainian government announced said on Friday that it was banning all international passenger flights and foreign citizens from entering the country until April 3.

18:05 GMT – US tries to lure German firm working on virus vaccine: Report

Berlin is trying to stop Washington from persuading a German company seeking a coronavirus vaccine to move its research to the United States, prompting German politicians to insist no country should have a monopoly on any future vaccine.

German government sources told Reuters news agency on Sunday that the US administration was looking into how it could gain access to a potential vaccine being developed by a German firm, CureVac.

Read more here.

17:55 GMT – Coronavirus in Gulf states: No warm greetings, no mosque prayers

No shisha sessions, deserted streets, mosques and shopping malls, drones in the sky broadcasting public health warnings – the new coronavirus has turned life upside down in the Gulf societies.

More than 870 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded so far across the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), but so far no deaths related to the virus have been reported.

Read more here.

17:50 GMT – Irish government asks all pubs to close until March 29

The Irish government called for all bars in the country to close until March 29 to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

“The government is now calling on all public houses and bars (including hotel bars) to close from this evening until at least March 29,” the government said in a statement.

17:24 GMT – Italy coronavirus deaths rise 25 percent to 1,809

Italy recorded 368 new deaths from the COVID-19 outbreak as the total rose to 1,809 from 1,441 a day earlier, the country’s civil protection authority said.

The number of positive cases rose to 24,747 from 21,157 a day earlier as Europe’s worst outbreak of the deadly virus continued to expand.

16:58 GMT – Qatar coronavirus cases rise to 401

The Qatar Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced 64 new confirmed cases of coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) in the gulf nation, taking the total number of cases to 401.

So far 7,950 people have been tested for Covid-19 in Qatar, while four people have reportedly recovered, according to MoPH.

Doha skyline, Qatar [Sorin/ Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

 Nearly 8,000 people have been tested in Qatar for COVID-19 [Sorin/ Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

16:18 GMT – Kenya blocks entry as virus cases, closes schools

Kenya unveiled a series of strict measures to curb coronavirus on Sunday, blocking entry to the country to all except citizens and residents and shutting schools as the number of confirmed cases rose to three.

In an address to the nation President Uhuru Kenyatta said two people who had come into contact with a 27-year-old Kenyan patient “have tested positive” and been moved into an isolation faclity.

“The government is suspending travel for all persons coming into Kenya from any country with reported Coronavirus cases,” he said. The restrictions excluded Kenyan citizens and foreigners with valid resident permits.

In addition to these measure, from Monday, all primary and secondary schools are to close, with boarding schools and universities to shut by the end of the week. All companies have been urged to allow employees to work from home.

16:15 GMT – Coronavirus deaths in Britain jump by 14 to total 35

The number of deaths of Britons with coronavirus jumped by 14 in the last 24 hours to 35, while the number of people diagnosed rose by 20 percent to 1,372, health authorities said.

The British government said earlier it would step up its response to the crisis, including isolating older people “in the coming weeks”.

Britain has to date taken less stringent steps to slow the virus than elsewhere in Europe.




US extends coronavirus travel ban to UK, Ireland

15:54 GMT – Pakistan coronavirus cases rise to 52 – health official

The State Minister of Health of Pakistan Zafar Mirza confirmed that the total number of cases now stand at 52. 

We’ve increased our diagnostic capacity, and are now able to carry out #coronavirus test in 13 labs across the country,” he added.

15:50 GMT – Dutch schools to close as coronavirus spreads – broadcaster NOS

The Dutch government has announced to close all schools as it steps up measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, national broadcaster NOS reported.

NOS said the measure was decided on during crisis meetings and would be revealed later at a government news conference.

15:40 GMT – Germany tries to stop US from luring away firm seeking vaccine

Berlin is trying to stop Washington from persuading a German company seeking a coronavirus vaccine to move its research to the United States, prompting German politicians to insist no country should have a monopoly on any future vaccine.

German government sources told Reuter that the US administration was looking into how it could gain access to a potential vaccine being developed by a German firm, CureVac.

Earlier, the Welt am Sonntag German newspaper reported that US President Donald Trump had offered funds to lure CureVac to the United States, and the German government was making counter-offers to tempt it to stay.

There was no comment immediately available from the U.S. embassy in Berlin when contacted by Reuters over the report.

15:21 GMT – South Asian nations discuss ways to tackle virus outbreak

Leaders of South Asian countries discussed ways to cooperate in tackling the spread of the new coronavirus in the region with India offering to contribute to an emergency fund.

Over video conference, the leaders from the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) were able to discuss their plans.

The group includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These countries together are home to about a fifth of the world’s population.

14:15 GMT – Morocco government suspends all international flights

Morocco suspended all international passenger flights to and from its airports as a protective measure against the spread of coronavirus, the foreign ministry said.

Morocco has confirmed 28 coronavirus cases, including one death and one recovery.

14:00 GMT – Most Malaysia coronavirus cases linked to Islamic gathering

Malaysia said more than half the country’s 428 coronavirus cases were linked to an international Islamic gathering held last month.

The Southeast Asian nation announced a spike of 190 new infections over the weekend, mostly linked to a global Islamic event attended by almost 20,000 people.

“Of the 428 cases, 243 are participants from the religious event in Sri Petaling mosque,” Noor Hisham Abdullah, director-general of the health ministry, told AFP news agency.

Authorities said participants at the gathering from February 27 to March 1 came from Bangladesh, Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. About 14,500 of the participants were Malaysian.




Coronavirus: Italians under lockdown sing from balconies

14:00 GMT – Chaos at US airports amid medical screenings

Chaos gripped important US airports as citizens returning from coronavirus-hit European countries overwhelmed authorities attempting to process the surge.

Frustrated passengers complained of hours-long lines, crowded and unsanitary conditions and general disarray in the system for screening people for symptoms of the virus.

The United States on Saturday extended the ban on travel from Europe, South Korea and China to the United Kingdom and Ireland.

13:57 GMT – Hungary government confirms first death from coronavirus

Hungary’s government communication centre confirmed the central European nation’s first official victim of the new coronavirus, state news agency MTI reported.

A 75 year-old Hungarian national died shortly after being hospitalised with severe pneumonia and a suspected coronavirus infection.

Hungary has 32 confirmed coronavirus cases and 159 people in quarantine, according to government data. The government closed all schools and introduced restrictions on public gathering this week.

13:50 GMT – Six more cases confirmed in Jordan

Jordan confirmed six new coronavirus cases, among them four are French tourists and two Jordanians, one of whom had recently returned from the United Kingdom.

All six people who tested positive were admitted to Prince Hamzah Hospital for treatment.

Previously, Jordan had reported just one case in a man who has since recovered.

Abdel Razzaq al-Khashman, manager of Prince Hamzah Hospital, described the condition of the French tourists as ranging from “good to moderate”.

13:40 GMT – Equatorial Guinea reports first case

Equatorial Guinea has reported its first case of coronavirus, a 42-year-old woman who flew back to the capital Malabo from Spain on March 13, the health ministry said in a statement. 

13:30 GMT – Spain reports 2,000 new cases, more than 100 deaths

Spain reported about 2,000 new coronavirus cases and more than 100 deaths over the last 24 hours.

The new figures raise Spain’s number of COVID-19 infections to 7,753 – and its death toll to 288 – after the government imposed a near-total nationwide lockdown, banning people from leaving home except to go to work, get medical care or buy food.


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

12:48 GMT – Key Shia tomb closed for pilgrims in Iran’s Mashhad

The tomb of Imam Reza in Iran’s holy Shia city of Mashhad has been closed to pilgrims until further notice in line with measures to stop the new coronavirus, a spokesman said.

“Currently, the porches of the mausoleum and generally all the covered spaces of the holy shrine are closed,” the spokesman for the shrine told AFP news agency.          

12:32 GMT – UK advises against all but essential travel to US

The UK has advised against all but essential travel to the United States due to US government restrictions on travellers from countries with a high incidence of coronavirus infection, which will include the UK and Ireland from 03:59 GMT on March 17.

12:21 GMT – Italian architect of Barcelona stadium dies

Vittorio Gregotti, an Italian architect who designed the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics stadium, died at the age of 92 after catching the novel coronavirus, Italian media said.

Gregotti died of pneumonia after being taken to a hospital in Milan having contracted COVID-19, the AGI news agency and the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.

His wife Mariana Mazza has been admitted to the same Milan hospital, Corriere della Sera said, without providing details on why.

12:16 GMT – Brunei bars residents from leaving as cases reach 50

Brunei said its citizens and foreign residents in the country are barred from leaving the Southeast Asian nation due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The health ministry also said it had confirmed 10 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total tally to 50.

12:14 GMT – Greece bans all links with Albania, North Macedonia

Greece said it would ban road and sea routes, as well as flights to Albania, North Macedonia. It has also decided to ban flights to and from Spain to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

It extended travel restrictions to Italy, saying it was banning passenger ship routes to and from the neighbouring country.




Coronavirus: Moving to virtual learning exposes deep divide

12:12 GMT – Nike to close all stores in US, many other countries

Nike Inc is closing all of its stores in the US and several other countries in a move to curb the spread of coronavirus, CNBC reported.

Nike stores in Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand will be closed from March 16 to 27, CNBC said.

However, the company was still keeping open its outlets in South Korea, Japan, most of China and in “many other countries”, based on daily assessments of the COVID-19 pandemic, CNBC added.

12:09 GMT – Turkey sets up quarantine locations for pilgrims

Turkey has set up quarantine locations for more than 10,300 people returning from pilgrimages to Islam’s holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

The youth and sport ministry said beds had been made available in university dormitories in the capital, Ankara, and the central Anatolian city of Konya for those returning from Umrah, a pilgrimage that can be made at any time of the year.

Returnees will be quarantined for 14 days in an effort to combat the coronavirus.

12:03 GMT – Vietnam introduces compulsory testing for arrivals

Vietnam’s health ministry said all passengers coming from or through China, South Korea, the UK and Schengen countries will be compulsorily quarantined and tested for coronavirus.

“The compulsory quarantine applies to arrivals from March 14,” the health ministry said in a statement. “Those whose tests are positive will get immediate treatment while the rest will be quarantined for 14 days.”

In a separate statement, the ministry said people, including foreigners, were required to wear face masks in public places.




Colombia closes border with Venezuela over coronavirus

11:03 GMT – Austria’s Tyrol orders weeklong lockdown

Austria’s Tyrol province is ordering a lockdown to fight the coronavirus, initially for one week.

The provincial governor, Gunther Platter, announced that people will be allowed to leave their homes only for reasons such as buying food and medicine, visiting the doctor, getting cash or walking the dog.

Tyrol, an Alpine region popular with skiers, borders northern Italy and is one of the worst-hit areas of Austria, which already has largely shut down public life.

10:50 GMT – Iran’s death toll reaches 724

Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus has reached 724, with 113 new deaths in the past 24 hours, an Iranian health official said, adding that 13,938 people have been infected across the country.

“In the past 24 hours, 1,209 new cases have been confirmed … with 113 deaths in the past 24 hours, the death toll has reached 724,” Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to Iran’s health minister, tweeted.

10:47 GMT – Afghanistan confirms 5 new cases, total 16

The Afghan health authorities announced that the number of COVID-19 infections in the country has risen to 16.

The Afghan Health Ministry spokesman, Wahidullah Mayar, said four new positive cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Herat province and one other in Daikundi province.

10:28 GMT – Israel to use ‘anti-terror’ technology to counter coronavirus

Israel plans to use “anti-terrorism” tracking technology and a partial shutdown of its economy to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said.

Read more here.

10:25 GMT – Your coronavirus emergency kit: Preparation, symptoms, tips

How to prepare or deal with COVID-19 as well as survive a virus-related lockdown.

Read more here.

INTERACTIVE: Coronavirus COVID-19 symptoms explainer

10:18 GMT – Mayor of an Italian town dies from coronavirus

Giorgio Valoti, the 70-year-old mayor of Cene, a town in the Italian province of Bergamo, died from the new coronavirus in hospital as his condition worsened on Thursday.

Valoti was a member of the far-right League party. Its leader Matteo Salvini offered condolences on Twitter: “A life spent for his own community […] we will miss you.”

09:35 GMT – Kazakhstan declares state of emergency

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak which has reached the Central Asian nation that has eight confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The decree published by the president’s office restricts entry to and departure from Kazakhstan for everyone except diplomats and those invited by the government. It also introduced a nationwide quarantine.

09:33 GMT – Austria imposes major restrictions on movement

Austria introduced major restrictions on movement in public places, urging Austrians to self-isolate, banning gatherings of more than five persons and further reducing entries from other countries.

It was not clear whether the restrictions were meant to come into force immediately, although restaurants were ordered closed from Tuesday.

“Austrians are being summoned to isolate themselves,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s office said in a statement. “That means only making social contact with the people with whom they live.”

Visitors from Great Britain, the Netherlands, Russia and Ukraine would not be allowed into the country, the chancellor’s office said in a statement, unless they undertook two weeks of home quarantine or had a current health certificate.




Spain imposes Italy-style lockdown in bid to contain coronavirus (03:07)

09:30 GMT – Philippines reports 3 more coronavirus deaths, 29 new cases

The Philippines recorded another three coronavirus deaths and 29 new cases, bringing the domestic tally of infections to 140 and the death toll to 11, as authorities placed the entire capital Manila under “community quarantine” for about a month beginning on Sunday.

The latest deaths include an 83-year-old American male with a travel history from the United States and South Korea, the Department of Health said in an advisory. The other two are Filipinos.

09:25 GMT – Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque shuts: Islamic Waqf

Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock have closed their doors as a precaution against the coronavirus, Islamic religious authorities have said, while outdoor prayers will still be allowed at the complex that houses Islam’s third holiest site.

“The Islamic Waqf department decided to shut down the enclosed prayer places inside the blessed Aqsa mosque until further notice as a protective measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. All prayers will be held in the open areas of the Aqsa mosque,” Omar Kiswani, the director of Al-Aqsa mosque, told Reuters news agency.

Read more here.

09:13 GMT – Malaysia reports 190 new coronavirus cases

Malaysia reported 190 new cases of coronavirus, most linked to a religious event at a mosque that was attended by more than 10,000 people from several countries.

The new cases bring the total number of infections in the country to 428, the health ministry said in a statement.

09:08 GMT – Kuwait confirms eight new cases

The Kuwaiti Health Ministry announced it registered eight new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 112 cases.

Health Ministry spokesman Abdullah Al-Sanad said six of the latest cases were of Kuwaiti citizens returning from the United Kingdom and those who came in contact with those infected, according to the Kuwaiti news agency (KUNA).

One case was of a Kuwaiti returning from France via the United Arab Emirates and the other was of a fellow citizen returning from Iran, Al-Sanad said.

A photo provided by the Kuwaiti news agency KUNA on March 13, 2020 shows Kuwait's Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah (2nd-R), Health Minister Sheikh Basel al-Sabah (2nd-L), and Interior Mi

Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah, second from right, Health Minister Sheikh Basel al-Sabah, second from left, and Interior Minister Anas al-Saleh, right. [KUNA/AFP]

09:00 GMT – Republic of Congo reports first coronavirus case

The Republic of the Congo has reported its first case of coronavirus, a 50-year-old French-Congolese man who arrived on an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Paris on March 1, the government said in a statement.

08:45 GMT – Jordan announces six new cases of coronavirus, total 7

Jordan confirmed six new cases of coronavirus, including one from an American tourist coming from Egypt, the health minister said.

The kingdom had previously reported only one case of the virus. It took measures to fight the outbreak on Saturday, including a tighter lockdown that closes all borders and a ban on all incoming and outgoing flights as of Tuesday.

08:40 GMT – India’s coronavirus cases at 107 as Modi plans regional response

India reported that the number of coronavirus infections had risen to 107, an increase of 23 from the day before, with a western state home to the country’s financial capital the worst hit.

Data from India’s federal health ministry showed that there were now 31 confirmed coronavirus cases in Maharashtra state, where local authorities have closed down schools, colleges and shopping centres in most cities, including in the financial hub of Mumbai.

“The number could go up as we are waiting for test reports of people who were in close contact with patients who have tested positive,” a state health official said, declining to be named since he is not authorised to speak to media.

A photo taken and handout by the Vatican Media on March 12, 2020 shows a deserted St. Peter's Square two days after it was closed to tourists as part of a broader clampdown aimed at curbing the corona

A deserted St Peter’s Square two days after it was closed to tourists. [Vatican Media/AFP]

07:50 GMT – Vatican to hold Easter celebrations without congregation

The Vatican said its traditional Easter week celebrations would be held this year without worshippers.

“Because of the current global public health emergency, all the liturgical celebrations of Holy Week will take place without the physical presence of the faithful,” the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household said in a statement.

The Vatican also said: “Until April 12, the general audiences and the Angelus presided over by the Holy Father will be available only in live streaming on the official Vatican News website.”

07:02 GMT – Coronavirus crisis delays opening of Netanyahu trial

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial has been delayed for two months, until May, due to the coronavirus crisis.

Israel’s Justice Ministry said the trial, due to open on March 17 with the reading of an indictment against Israel’s longest-serving leader in three corruption cases, would begin on May 24 “due to developments related to the spread of the coronavirus”.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.

An employee in protective gears sprays disinfectant in the wake of coronavirus outbreak inside a train at the Senen train station in Jakarta Indonesia, Sunday, March 15, 2020. Indonesia's capital city

An employee sprays disinfectant inside a train at the Senen train station in Jakarta, Indonesia. [Tatan Syuflana/AP]

07:00 GMT – Indonesia reports 21 new coronavirus cases

Indonesia reported 21 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 117, CNN Indonesia reported, citing health ministry official Achmad Yurianto.

Of the new cases, 19 were detected in Jakarta and two in the Central Java province, Yurianto reportedly said.

06:55 GMT – Taiwan reports six new coronavirus cases

Taiwan reported six new cases of the coronavirus, all imported and marking the biggest daily rise in infections, in people who had returned to the island from countries including Spain and Japan, bringing its total tally to 59.

The other countries those infected had travelled to were Greece, Turkey, Egypt and Thailand, while two of the patients had transited in Dubai, the government added.

Taiwan has only reported one death from the virus, while 20 people have recovered and have been discharged from hospital. The other cases are all in a stable condition.

06:50 GMT – Thailand reports 32 new cases, brings total to 114

Thailand reported 32 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total infections in the Southeast Asian country to 114, health officials said.

It was the biggest daily jump in cases in Thailand, which was one of the first countries outside China to report coronavirus infections that have since swept much of the world.

06:00 GMT

Tamila Varshalomidze, my colleague in Doha, will be taking over the blog shortly.

Here’s a summary of what has happened over the past few hours:

Australia has said it will require everyone arriving from overseas to go into quarantine for 14 days.

The Philippines is sealing off Manila, its capital, from the rest of the country and roadblocks have been set up around the city. We will be bringing you more on the situation there later.

The US president, Donald Trump, has tested negative for coronavirus.

Begona Gomez – the wife of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez – was diagnosed with coronavirus shortly after her husband announced sweeping new restrictions to daily life in Spain.

Passengers are transferred to a hospital from a state shelter where passengers suspected of been infected with Coronavirus are quarantined as a preventive measure in the face of the global COVID-19 co

People are transferred to a hospital in Jiquilisco, El Salvador. [Marvin Recinos/AFP]

05:50 GMT – El Salvador declares state of emergency over coronavirus

El Salvador has not reported a single confirmed case of coronavirus, but congress there has declared a state of emergency and approved a partial suspension of the country’s constitution to tackle any outbreak.

The measures include a restriction on free movement and assembly for a period of 30 days, allowing health officials to ban public gatherings.

“We have given the government legal mechanisms to deal with this serious health situation,” congressional President Mario Ponce said after Saturday’s vote.

05:45 GMT – Uzbekistan confirms first case of coronavirus

An Uzbek citizen has tested positive for coronavirus after returning from France, Uzbekistan’s health ministry said on Sunday, marking the first case of the virus in the Central Asian country of 34 million.

05:30 GMT – Passengers held on cruise ship in New Zealand

Passengers on the Golden Princess cruise liner were barred from disembarking at a New Zealand port on Sunday because of a suspected coronavirus case on board, health officials said.

There were 2,600 passengers and 1,100 crew members on the boat docked at Akaroa near the South Island city of Christchurch, according to the port’s cruise ship schedule.

New Zealand’s director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, said the ship’s doctor had quarantined three passengers. One of them has developed COVID-19 symptoms and is being treated as a suspected case.

“All on board are not being allowed off the ship until results are known,” Bloomfield said.

Golden Princess

The Golden Princess, lying off Akaroa on New Zealand’s South Island, is the latest cruise ship to face concerns about the spread of coronavirus on board. [Mark Baker/AP Photo]

Princess Cruises, which operates the vessel, announced three days ago it was suspending voyages worldwide for two months in response to the coronavirus pandemic

05:15 GMT – Tycoon who criticised Xi over coronavirus goes missing – Reuters

An influential former Chinese property executive who called President Xi Jinping a “clown” over a speech he made last month about the government’s efforts to battle the coronavirus has gone missing, three of his friends told Reuters.

They said they had not been able to contact Ren Zhiqiang, a member of China’s ruling Communist Party and a former top executive of state-controlled property developer Huayuan International real estate group, since March 12.

“Many of our friends are looking for him,” his close friend Wang Ying said in a statement to Reuters, describing them as being “extremely anxious”.

“Ren Zhiqiang is a public figure, and his disappearance is widely known. The institutions responsible for this need to give a reasonable and legal explanation for this as soon as possible,” she said.

Calls made by Reuters to Ren’s mobile phone went unanswered.

Beijing police did not immediately respond to requests by phone and fax for comment on Sunday. China’s State Council Information Office did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.

Al Jazeera’s Mia Swart took a closer look at human rights in China in the context of the coronavirus outbreak in a story we published last week. 

04:30 GMT – Philippines sealing off Manila to all domestic travellers

In the Philippines, thousands of police, with the help of the army and coast guard, are sealing off Manila in one of the most aggressive moves against the virus anywhere in Southeast Asia.

Roadblocks have been set up at major entry and exit points to the sprawling Metropolitan Manila, or Metro Manila area, home to 12 million people. 

Richard Heydarian, a professor at De La Salle University, told Al Jazeera Manila felt “surreal” at the moment and he expected the so-called “community quarantine” could be in force beyond one month, as currently planned.

“A lot of us have had to cancel flights, our classes are suspended for the next month, thousands of police have been deployed across the city,” Heydarian said. “This is progressively going to look like a lockdown (and) this could actually be extended beyond one month if the situation on the ground doesn’t improve.” 

Philippines

A checkpoint is set up in Quezon City, part of Metro Manila, Philippines early in March as police, backed by the army and coast guard, started sealing off the densely-populated capital from the rest of the country. [Aaron Favila/AP Photo]

Residents have been told to stay home except for work and urgent errands. All domestic travel – by land, air and sea – to and from the capital has been suspended and large gatherings prohibited. A night curfew is also expected.

03:40 GMT – Australia to require self-isolation of all international arrivals

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison says the country will require everyone arriving from overseas – Australians or nationals of other countries – to go through 14 days of self-isolation.

“We are going to have to get used to some changes in the way we live our lives,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a press conference. The measure is due to come into effect from midnight on Sunday (13:00 GMT).

Morrison also said all cruise ships would be banned entirely and that he expects “visitor traffic will dry up very very, very quickly”.

“If your mate has been to Bali and they come back and they turn up at work and they are sitting next to you, well, they will be committing an offence,” Morrison said.

03:35 GMT – Japan cases rise to 780

Japan’s Health Ministry has announced 64 new cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 780. The country also has 697 other cases from a cruise ship that was stranded in the country.

The ministry said the death toll has risen to 29, including seven former cruise ship passengers.

The new cases come from 13 prefectures, including Hokkaido, Tokyo and Osaka.

03:30 GMT – South Korea to declare ‘special disaster’ zones over virus

South Korea is expected to declare Daegu and the nearby province of North Gyeongsang “special disaster zones” on Sunday, to enable authorities to channel more support to them.

Some 90 percent of cases in the country have been in those two areas.

South Korea is also stepping up travel restrictions on arrivals from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom, which will require them to be tested for fever and share their health data via a specially created app.

02:50 GMT – Lebanon to announce a ‘state of medical emergency’ over virus

Lebanon is expected to announce a “state of medical emergency” on Sunday, shutting down all public and private institutions except hospitals, pharmacies and bakeries, a presidential palace source told Al Jazeera’s Timour Azhari, who is in Beirut.

Supermarkets “will open within specific times, not all the time” while banks will be ordered closed.

You can read more about what’s expected to happen here.

02:25 GMT – Face mask shortages lead to resale bans and crackdowns

A law banning the resale of face masks has gone into effect in Japan as the government tries to address severe shortages as a result of the outbreak.

Those who violate the law that came into effect on Sunday risk a prison term of up to one year or a fine of up to one million yen ($9,260).

In Hong Kong, meanwhile, authorities are telling retailers to stop selling four types of surgical masks because their bacterial counts exceeded maximum legal limits.

The masks are sold in boxes of 50 pieces each and two of the samples listed Nepal and Turkey as the countries of manufacture, Hong Kong customs said in a statement. The others were unlabelled, but are thought to have come from Southeast Asia.

02:20 GMT – Mexico brings forward Easter holidays in coronavirus fight

Mexico’s Education Minister Esteban Moctezuma says schools and universities will start their Easter holidays early as the government steps up its efforts to tackle the coronavirus.

The Easter break will start on Friday, March 20, and last for 30 days instead of 15, Moctezuma said.

Mexico

People in Mexico have been stocking up on basic supplies since more cases were announced. [Henry Romero/Reuters]

Other measures include additional education on hygiene and sanitation.

“We don’t want that students leave for vacation and all stick together,” Moctezuma said during a news conference, adding that students should avoid close contacts with others. “We want this to be preventative isolation.”

On Saturday, Mexico had 41 confirmed coronavirus cases, from 26 on Friday and 15 the day before that.

02:10 GMT – Wife of Spain’s prime minister confirmed to have coronavirus

Begona Gomez – the wife of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez – was diagnosed with coronavirus shortly after her husband announced sweeping new measures designed to keep people off the streets and contain the spread of the virus.

As Al Jazeera’s Graham Keeley writes from Barcelona, the restrictions are something of a shock in a country where life is lived outside in bars, restaurants or on the beaches.

01:30 GMT – Korea cases continue to slow

South Korea reported 76 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its morning update on the country’s coronavirus outbreak, down from 107 on Saturday.

The country now has 8,162 confirmed cases of the virus, with 75 deaths.

01:15 GMT – China imported cases exceed local infections for second time

China recorded more imported cases of coronavirus than locally originated ones for a second time on Saturday, according to data released by the National Health Commission (NHC) on Sunday.

Mainland China had 20 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on March 14, up from 11 cases a day earlier. Of Saturday’s cases, 16 involved travellers entering China from overseas, it said.

The remaining four cases were recorded in the city of Wuhan. Saturday also marked the 10th consecutive day in which Hubei province recorded zero new infections outside Wuhan, its provincial capital.

China coronavirus

A man wearing a protective mask stands at a fence surrounding Beijing Capital International Airport. The country is now seeing more imported cases than ones that have originated locally. [Thomas Peter/Reuters]

Of the 16 imported cases, five were found in the capital Beijing and three in Shanghai. The provinces of Zhejiang, Gansu and Guangdong respectively reported four, three and one cases.

00:30 GMT – Australia ‘national’ cabinet to meet on Sunday on coronavirus

Australia’s new national cabinet is set to meet on Sunday, as the country’s cases of coronavirus topped 250, to discuss its response to the outbreak.

The national cabinet, which includes federal, state and territory leaders, will hold its first meeting via teleconference on Sunday.

The government has already advised against non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday.

The meeting is expected to discuss whether schools should be closed and border controls further tightened to contain COVID-19.

“We are, rightly, keeping all options on the table, whether it’s in relation to travel or whether it’s in relation to schools. The schools’ question will be very much guided by the medical advice,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told ABC television.

“One of the things that they have talked about is not moving too early on something like that.”

00:15 GMT – US president tests negative for coronavirus

US President Donald Trump was tested for the coronavirus and the result was negative.

Read more here.

00:00 GMT – Iranians ignoring calls to stay home, Qom shrines ordered shut

Iran has ordered the closure of religious shrines in the holy city of Qom, where the country’s coronavirus outbreak is thought to have begun.

It is also urging people to limit their movements and stay off the streets and has announced all construction work in the capital, Tehran will stop.

Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi, who is in Iran, says there is much scepticism about the government’s response.

“Certainly, [the closures] are better later than never,” he said. “But critics will say it’s too little, too late, the damage has already been done, the virus has already spread throughout the country from Qom.”

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

I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

It is the morning of March 15.

A summary of the latest developments:

You can read all the latest updates from yesterday (March 14) here.





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PMQs: Boris Johnson faces Jeremy Corbyn ahead of 2020 budget – live news | Politics


Cabinet received an update from the health secretary and the prime minister on the coronavirus outbreak. The PM wished Nadine Dorries a speedy recovery, noting that she was following official advice to self-isolate.

The chancellor set out the measures being taken to manage the impact of coronavirus, laying out details of his economic action plan that will be announced at budget.

He outlined how this plan – combined with the measures announced by the governor of the Bank of England this morning – will make the UK one of the best placed economies in the world to manage the potential impact of the virus. The chancellor added the budget will ensure businesses, the public and those in public services working on the front line against the virus get the support they need.

He said despite the impacts of the outbreak being uncertain, we have the economic tools to overcome the disruption caused by the virus and move the country forwards.

The chancellor also said that despite coronavirus being “front and centre in our minds”, the budget will implement the manifesto on which the government had been elected. He said it was vital that people know this is a budget that delivers on the promises made to the British people – investing in public services and cutting taxes for millions of hardworking people – and that there could be no delay in laying the foundations for a decade of growth where opportunity was spread equally across the UK.

The PM said that this budget starts to tackle head on the challenges facing our economy and country – addressing productivity and regional imbalances – and showing that the government is responding to the public’s desire for change. It will set the path for further action through the year.



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Greta Thunberg news: EU’s plan to let activist speak in Brussels despite ban outrages MEPs | World | News


Nuno Melo, a Portuguese MEP, condemned the bloc’s decision in a bombshell letter to EU Parliament president David Sassoli. He demanded an answer as to why Greta was deemed an “exception” to the ban ahead of her talk. Mr Melo also said that “human beings are democratically equal,” referencing a bias towards the 17-year-old.

Belgian MEP Hilde Vautmans also waded in questioning “how can we explain this to our visitors and guests”.

She added: “Everyone should be treated equally.

“If the European Parliament grants an exception to Greta Thunberg, this house will not be taken seriously.”

The climate change activist will be in the Belgium capital on Wednesday and is expected to deliver her speech to MEPs.

Most recently, she was in Bristol talking to activists on Friday.

A spokeswoman for parliament said: “This is not a decision linked to a particular person.

“Any speaker specifically invited by the president of an official body of the parliament is allowed to attend.”

Other MEPs also joined in asking for further clarification as to why the Swede was allowed to attend Parliament.

JUST IN: ‘Anti-Greta Thunberg’ hits out at teenage climate activist

On Tuesday, Spain confirmed that it had recorded its first death.

Reports say that the virus was the reason a man died in a Valencia hospital.

In the UK, 51 people have contracted the disease.

The Government has put its plan in place how it intends to tackle the coronavirus.



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Turkey opens borders for refugees and migrants to travel to Europe – Channel 4 News


Hundreds of refugees and migrants are gathering on Turkey’s border with Greece after Turkey said it would no longer prevent them from crossing towards Europe.

Buses have been seen transporting people from Istanbul as Turkey attempts to put pressure on the EU to provide more support for refugees coming from Syria.

In Syria itself, tensions remain high after 34 Turkish soldiers were killed this week and fierce fighting continues as the Turkish-backed Syrian rebels try to halt the advance of Russian-backed government forces.



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Coronavirus outbreak ‘getting bigger’: All the latest updates | News


Hopes that the coronavirus would be contained to China have vanished as the first case in sub-Saharan Africa was announced in Nigeria and stock markets took a pounding amid fears of a global recession.

In China – the epicentre of the deadly disease – the National Health Commission reported on Friday at least 44 new coronavirus deaths, bringing to 2,788 the number of fatalities nationwide.

Coronavirus has killed more than 2,800 people and infected more than 83,000 worldwide.

More:

Here are the latest updates:

Friday, February 28

19:00 GMT – Italy coronavirus death toll rises to 21, positive cases 888

A civil protection official in Italy said that four more people have died from coronavirus, bringing the total to 21, while the number of those testing positive for the illness jumped to 888 from 650 the day before. Of those infect, 46 are said to have recovered. 

Northern Italy’s Lombardy region said it will ask the government to maintain for at least another week the containment measures already implemented against the outbreak. 

18:20 GMT – Pakistan re-opens border with Iran 

Pakistan re-opened its border with neighbouring Iran, allowing hundreds of its stranded citizens to return home.

“We have reopened the border to allow our citizens to enter [the country] in batches,” Liaquat Shahwani, a spokesperson for the government of southwestern Balochistan province that borders Iran was quoted as saying by Anadolu Agency.

Those who have touched the virus-hit areas in Iran are being quarantined until they are declared clear.”

18:00 GMT – EU health ministers to hold extraordinary meeting

European Union health ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting on March 6 to discuss the coronavirus outbreak, an EU official said.

EU health ministers held a first extraordinary meeting earlier in February on the epidemic, where they decided to coordinate their response to the outbreak.

17:50 GMT – More US coronavirus cases likely

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the number of additional coronavirus cases in the US is likely to increase but that does not mean they will “skyrocket” in North America.

Kudlow, in an interview with Fox Business Network, added that while there are not currently US supply chain problems that does not mean they will not surface.

17:40 GMT – Countries not ready to take same measures as China: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a report that much of the global community is not yet ready to implement the types of measures that have contained the fast-moving coronavirus outbreak in China.

“These are the only measures that are currently proven to interrupt or minimize transmission chains in humans,” the report said.

“Fundamental to these measures is extremely proactive surveillance to immediately detect cases, very rapid diagnosis and immediate case isolation, rigorous tracking and quarantine of close contacts, and an exceptionally high degree of population understanding and acceptance of these measures.”

17:30 GMT – Corona virus unlikely to vanish next year: US health official 

Anthony Fauci, head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases, said the coronavirus is unlikely to disappear next year and that many more cases should be expected in the US.

Fauci told lawmakers in a closed-door meeting that the US currently does not have enough coronavirus testing resources. 




Coronavirus: Scientists in the US race to find a vaccine (2:04)

16:55 GMT – Coronavirus risk is at very high global level: WHO chief 

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the risk of spread and impact of the coronavirus is now ‘very high’ at a global level. 

Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva the 329 cases reported in China over the past 24 hours made it the lowest there in more than a month. 

16:50 GMT – Coronavirus increases economic risks: Swiss National Bank 

The Swiss National Bank said in a statement that the widening coronavirus outbreak has increased economic risks which would have negative consequences for Switzerland and increase the attraction of the safe-haven franc. 

“The coronavirus has increased the economic risks. If the international environment were to deteriorate, this would have consequences for Switzerland as a small, open economy,” the central bank said in a statement. 

16:30 GMT – Pompeo says US ready to help Iran with coronavirus 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his country offered to help Iran in its efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak which has killed 34 people and raised questions about Tehran’s willingness to share information. 

Pompeo told a House Foreign Affairs Committee said authorities in the Islamic Republic were poorly equipped to deal with the health crisis. 

Heavy economic sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump have made it difficult for the country’s health sector to import vital medical equipment and pharmaceutical products.

16:15 GMT – British man on board Diamond Princess dies 

Japan’s Kyodo news agency said a British man who was on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship has passed away after being infected by the coronavirus. 

The British national’s death, the first of a foreign passenger, brought the death toll aboard the ship to six. 

16:00 GMT – Two more cases confirmed in Romania 

Nelu Tataru, Romania’s deputy health ministry, said two more cases of coronavirus have been confirmed, raising the total number of patients to three. 

“They are a 45-year-old man from the county of Maramures and a 38-year-old woman from (the western city of) Timisoara,” Tataru told reporters, adding that they had both recently returned from Italy. 

15:40 GMT – France: Companies can declare ‘force majeure’

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced that companies can declare ‘force majeure’ when dealing with small-to-medium sized enterprises. 

“We are going to consider the coronavirus as a case of force majeure,” Le Maire told reporters, referring to instances where parties to a contract are unable to meet their obligations due to external circumstances. 




Coronavirus in Latin America: Health officials on alert (2:36)

15:30 GMT – Kenya High Court orders flights from China suspended 

Kenya’s High Court has ordered flights from China temporarily suspended, following a petition by the Law Society of Kenya. 

“I find that unless conservatory orders sought are granted Kenyans will continue to be exposed to the deadly disease coronavirus,” Judge James Makau said. 

15:20 GMT – Almost 60 confirmed cases in Germany 

A spokesperson for the German health ministry said nearly 60 people had tested positive for the coronavirus, adding that the number included those who recovered. 

“At the moment in Germany, we have almost 60 but it’s a very dynamic situation, as we keep saying.” 

14:50 GMT – Coronavirus outbreak ‘getting bigger’ after Nigeria case: WHO 

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the coronavirus outbreak is getting bigger after Nigeria diagnosed the first case in sub-Saharan Africa, reiterating that the virus could reach “most, if not, all countries”. 

Christian Lindmeier, a spokesperson for WHO, told a new conference in Geneva that the agency was investigating the possibility of patients getting re-infected. 

“But in general a person who had coronavirus infection would be immune for at least a while,” he added. 

14:30 GMT – Brussels Airlines to reduce flights to northern Italy by 30 percent 

Brussels Airlines, a Lufthansa subsidiary, said it was cutting flights to northern Italy, including routes to Milan, Venice and Rome, by 30 percent for 12 days starting March 2. 

“Because of the rapidly declining demand in air travel within Europe, Brussels Airlines has taken the decision to reduce flight frequencies on a number of routes in order to limit the negative economic impact on its business,” it said in a statement.

14:20 GMT – Prefecture in northern Japan declares state of emergency over coronavirus 

Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, asking that residents avoid going outdoors during the weekend. 

“Hokkaido has been doing everything it can to contain the virus but the crisis is deepening,” said Governor Naomichi Suzuki in a televised news conference, adding that the state of emergency would go on until March 19.

13:50 GMT – Israel confirms fourth case of coronavirus

Israel’s health ministry confirmed its fourth case of coronavirus in a person which it said had been in close contact with a man who tested positive after returning from a trip to Italy. 

“Another coronavirus patient who was in close personal contact with the patient who returned from Italy was diagnosed with a positive result and transferred to isolation,” the health ministry said in a statement. 

Two Israeli passengers had last week tested positive and were put in quarantine after traveling on the Diamond Princess, a virus-stricken cruise ship. 

13:40 GMT – First case in France’s Nice

Authorities in the southern French city of Nice have confirmed a first case of the deadly coronavirus in a woman who had recently returned from Milan. 

“I have been informed of a first case of coronavirus diagnosed this morning at the Nice hospital,” wrote Mayor Christian Estrosi on Twitter. 


This is Ramy Allahoum in Doha taking over from Usaid Siddiqui

Here’s a quick summary of the latest developments:

Thirty-four people have been confirmed dead in Iran with a total of 388 people infected.

Wales identified its first case and two new cases were found in England, taking the total tally  in the UK to 19.

12:40 GMT – Two Abu Dhabi hotels under quarantine after guests diagnosed

Guests at two hotels in the United Arab Emirates’ capital Abu Dhabi have been placed under quarantine after interacting with two Italians diagnosed with coronavirus, state news agency WAM reported.

Other people who also interacted with the two Italians on Yas island have been isolated at home, the agency said, citing the health department of Abu Dhabi.

The Italians individuals were diagnosed with the disease on Thursday.

11:50 GMT – More guests leave Canary Islands hotel

Three small groups of guests left a Tenerife hotel in minibuses on its fourth day of quarantine over the coronavirus.

At least two people could be seen leaving in an ambulance, but around 700 holidaymakers remained in the compound. It was not clear where they were being taken or whether those in the ambulance had any symptoms of the virus.

The regional government of Canary Islands cleared 130 guests on Thursday to leave the hotel, after it was  placed on lockdown when four cases of the coronavirus were detected there.




Coronavirus in Pakistan: Panic buying of masks leading to shortages

11:17 GMT – Second case confirmed in Georgia

Georgia confirmed its second case of the coronavirus, according to the director of National Center for Disease Control and Public Health.

Amiran Gamkrelidze said the new case arrived from Italy. The first case reported in Georgia was on February 26.

10:56 GMT – One more confirmed case in Thailand, total now 41

Thailand recorded one new case bringing the total in the South East Asian country to 41.

According to the health ministry, the case is of a 25-year-old Thai national and tour guide who recently returned from South Korea.

10:45 GMT – Death toll in Iran rises to 34 – health ministry

Thirty-four people have been confirmed dead in Iran because of the coronavirus, a health ministry spokesman said.

The number of people diagnosed with the disease now stands at 388, 143 more than Thursday – from different parts of the country had tested positive for the virus, Kianush Jahanpur told reporters.

10:15 GMT – Second case confirmed in Netherlands – health authorities

A second case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in the Netherlands, health officials said

This latest case was reported in Amsterdam, the Dutch capital, while the first case, identified on Thursday, was confirmed in the southern city of Tilburg.

Both individuals had recently travelled in Northern Italy.




Coronavirus outbreak: Death toll rises to 17 in northern Italy

10:10 GMT – Nigeria’s first case travelled through Lagos before detection – minister

Nigeria’s first confirmed case was not detected at airport, and travelled through Lagos before he became ill and went to a hospital, the country’s health minister said.

The Italian man, who authorities said arrived in Nigeria from Milan on the evening of February 24, did not have symptoms when the plane landed.

Authorities are now working to “meet and observe” all those who were on the flight with him, and are also identifying all the people he met and places he visited in Lagos, a city of some 20 million people.

09:50 GMT – First case in Wales reported, UK tally now 19

The United Kingdom is now reporting 19 confirmed cases of the coronavirus after Wales identified its first case and two new cases were found in England, health authorities said on Friday.

“The total number of UK cases is 19,” the health ministry said.

09:45 GMT – Pope cancels more official appointments over cold

Pope Francis was working from home, and cancelled postponed his official appointments, the Vatican said, a day after cancelling a scheduled appearance at mass because of “a mild ailment”.

Francis had appeared earlier in the week to be suffering from a cold, seen blowing his nose and coughing during the Ash Wednesday service.

While the Pope, 83, celebrated morning mass, and greeted participants at the end, he cleared his schedule of everything apart from meetings at the Saint Martha’s guest house at the Vatican where he resides, chief press officer Matteo Bruni said in a statement.

Pope Francis speaks at a conference hosted by the Vatican on economic solidarity, at the Vatican

 Francis had appeared to be suffering from a cold earlier in the week [File: Remo Casilli/Reuters]

09.40 GMT – Switzerland suspends all major events to combat virus

The Swiss government has suspended all events in the country involving more than 1,000 participants until mid-March in a bid to stop the novel virus

“Large-scale events involving more than 1,000 people are to be banned. The ban comes into immediate effect and will apply at least until 15 March,” the government said in a statement after the country registered 15 cases.

“In the case of public or private events at which fewer than 1,000 people would gather, event organisers must carry out a risk assessment in conjunction with the competent cantonal authorities to decide whether or not the event can be held”, the statement read.

09:16 GMT – Online virus game in China removed: developer

A popular game that allows players to create a virus and spread it worldwide has been pulled from Apple’s App Store in China, its developer said, as the country battles a real-life epidemic.

Users based in China could not download “Plague Inc” on Friday after the cyberspace watchdog ordered its removal over “illegal” content, UK-based Ndemic Creations said.

Ndemic said it was not clear if the decision was linked to the deadly new coronavirus outbreak, which began in central China in December. “We have a huge amount of respect for our Chinese players and are devastated that they are no longer able to access and play Plague Inc,” Ndemic said.

08:43 GMT – Russia restricts Iran, South Korea travellers over virus

Moscow has announced new restrictions on people travelling to Russia from Iran and South Korea, two countries hit hardest by the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in statement announced a temporary suspension of visas for Iranians travelling to Russia for employment, tourism, education and transit purposes.

A separate decree imposed restrictions on travel to Russia from South Korea, with exceptions including members of official delegations.




Is the spread of coronavirus out of control?

08:26 GMT – Recovered patients found not to be infectious – official

Recovered coronavirus patients who were discharged from hospitalization but later tested positive again have been found not to be infectious, an official at China’s National Health Commission (NHC) said.

A hospital administration official, Guo Yanhong, told reporters at a daily press conference that there is a need to deepen the understanding of the new coronavirus, while improving health tracking and management of patients who recovered.

08:00 GMT – Two South Africans test positive on cruise ship

A pair of South Africans working on the Diamond Princess cruise ship have tested positive for COVID-19, the South African health ministry said.

“On 25 February 2020, we were informed by the Japanese authorities that two of these South Africans tested positive for COVID-19,” the ministry said in a statement.

“They are currently being treated in Japan and the latest reports indicate that they are currently asymptomatic,” the statement said.

07:40 GMT – Mongolian President under quarantine: state media

Mongolia President Khaltmaagiin Battulga and his accompanying staff who travelled to China on Thursday have been placed under quarantine, according to Mongolian state media outlet Montsame. 

Battulga was the first foreign leader to visit China amid the Coronavirus outbreak.

In January, Mongolia shut its borders with China, to prevent the spread of the virus. So far no cases of coronavirus have been reported in Mongolia.

mongolia president and Xi

Mongolia’s President Khaltmaagiin Battulga, left, poses with Chinese President Xi Jinping for a photo during a meeting on Thursday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing [Liu Bin/Xinhua/AP]

07:30 GMT – Qatar evacuates citizens from Iran

All Qatari citizens have been evacuated from Iran and arrived in Doha, the Government Communications Office (GCO) confirmed in a press release.

All individuals will be quarantined in a hotel facility for 14 days, where they will be provided with all necessities and taken care of, the GCO said.

07:20 GMT – Belarus announces first case of coronavirus – TASS

Belarus has reported the first case of coronavirus infection in the country, according to Russian news agency TASS,

“We would like to inform you that February 27 tests conducted at the Republican Scientific and Practical Center of epidemiology and microbiology showed the presence of coronavirus 2019-nCoV in one of the students from Iran,” TASS quoted the Belarussian Ministry of Healthcare.

06:50 GMT – WHO: ‘Pandemic potential’ as infections spread globablly

World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said all nations should prepare themselves for potential pandemic, as nations aside from China now accout for three-quarters of new infections.

“This virus has pandemic potential,” Tedros revealed in Geneva. About 12 countries reported their first virus cases in past 24 hours.

According to WHO, outside China the virus has spread to a further 46 countries, where about 3,700 cases and 57 deaths have been reported so far.

WHO news conference on the novel coronavirus (COVID-2019)

The WHO director said this was “not a time of fear” but time to take action to save lives [ File: Denis Balibouse/Reuters]

 


 

I’ll be handing over this page shortly to my colleague Usaid Siddiqui in Doha.

Here’s a quick summary of the latest developments:

Nigeria becomes the first sub-Saharan country to confirm a coronavirus case, while several Asian and European countries, as well as New Zealand, also confirm their first infections.

Meanwhile,it’s becoming increasingly clear the virus will take a large toll on the global economy, as the markets have their worst week since 2008.

06:15 GMT – Kyrgyzstan resident in Japan tested positive for virus

A Kyrgyz citizen staying in Japan has tested positive for coronavirus and will be hospitalised there until full recovery, Kyrgyz deputy foreign minister Nurlan Abdrakhmanov said.

The man was one of the crew of the Diamond Princess cruise ship berthed in Japan’s port of Yokohama. Kyrgyzstan has reported no coronavuris cases on its own territory.

06:05 GMT – New Zealand reports first virus patient; case linked to Iran

New Zealand health officials said the country had its first coronavirus case, a person in their 60s who recently returned from Iran.

The person was being treated at the Auckland City Hospital and members of their household had also been isolated as a precaution.

Authorities said the patient arrived on an Emirates flight that landed in Auckland on Wednesday. They said anybody on the flight who had any concerns should contact health experts.

05:35 GMT – Stock markets take a pounding worldwide

Stock markets around the world have plummeted as it has become increasingly clear the virus will take a huge toll on the global economy.

Stock markets in Asia plunged again in opening trade on Friday morning, tracking huge losses in the United States and Europe.The Dow shed nearly 1,200 points, or 4.4 percent, on Thursday, taking its losses for the week to more than 11 percent.

“There was more coronavirus carnage on the markets,” Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell said.”One of the worst weeks in recent memory and terrifyingly, it’s not over yet. Friday is a tricky proposition.”

Share prices were on track for the worst week since the global financial crisis in 2008.




California reports first ‘unknown’ coronavirus case

05:15 GMT – Coronavirus fear touches off a global run on face masks

Fear of the spreading coronavirus has led to a global run on sales of face masks despite medical experts’ advice that most people who aren’t sick don’t need to wear them.

Many businesses are sold out, while others are limiting how many a customer can buy. Amazon is policing its site, trying to make sure sellers don’t gouge panicked buyers.

Ordinary people trying to protect themselves from the outbreak are not the only ones encountering shortages. Some health care professionals are seeing them as well.

05:10 GMT – Virus detected in sub-Saharan Africa, global stocks tank

Nigeria reported the first new coronavirus case in sub-Saharan Africa on Friday, as global stock markets tanked on deepening fears of a pandemic and the World Health Organization warned against the “fatal mistake” of complacency.

On Friday, Nigeria reported its first case: an Italian man who returned to densely populated Lagos early this week. Cases had previously been reported in Egypt and Algeria, but not in the sub-Saharan region.

The low number of cases across Africa, which has close economic ties with China, has puzzled health specialists and raised questions about authorities’ capabilities to detect the virus.

Commissioner Akin Abayomi said the man was transferred to Lagos State Biosecurity Facilities for isolation and testing. The patient was clinically stable with no serious symptoms and was being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.

03:58 GMT – Lithuania confirms first case of coronavirus

Lithuania’s government reported the country’s first confirmed case of coronavirus in a woman who returned this week from a visit to Italy’s northern city of Verona.

Italy is the European nation worst hit by the virus, with its death toll at 17, while the numbers of those testing positive for the illness increased by more than 200, to 350.

In a statement, the Lithuanian government said the stricken woman had been isolated in hospital in the northern town of Siauliai.She has been under observation since and is showing only slight symptoms.

The woman, aged 39, was attending a conference with colleagues in Italy before flying to the southern city of Kaunas, Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga said.

03:40 GMT – K-pop group BTS cancel concerts over coronavirus scare

K-pop megastars BTS on Friday cancelled four Seoul concerts due in April as the number of novel coronavirus cases in South Korea passed 2,000.

The seven-piece boy band – currently one of the biggest acts in the world – had scheduled four gigs at the capital’s Olympic Stadium to promote their new album, Map of the Soul: 7.

More than 200,000 fans were expected to attend, their agency Big Hit Entertainment said in a statement, with “a number of global production companies and a large group of expert international crew” also involved.

03:30 GMT – New Zealand limits entry of travellers from Iran

New Zealand said on Friday that it was placing temporary restrictions on incoming travellers from Iran as a precautionary measure to protect against the coronavirus outbreak.

“This means people will not be able to travel from Iran to New Zealand and anyone who has been in Iran in the last 14 days will need to self-isolate,” Health Minister David Clark said in a statement.

The death toll in Iran from coronavirus had risen to 26, by far the highest number outside China.

01:56 GMT – Tokyo Disneyland to close through mid-March on coronavirus concerns

Tokyo Disneyland will be closed starting on Saturday through to March 15 amid an outbreak of coronavirus infections in Japan, operator Oriental Land Co Ltd said on Friday.

Both Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea will be affected, the company said.




Is the spread of coronavirus out of control?

The move comes after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for all schools to close to stop the coronavirus from spreading. The government has also urged that big gatherings and sports events be scrapped or curtailed for two weeks.

01:01 GMT – South Korea reports 256 new coronavirus cases, total 2,022 – KCDC

South Korea reported 256 new coronavirus cases on Friday, bringing the total number of infected in the country to 2,022, the Korea Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention said.

Of the new cases, 182 were in the southeastern city of Daegu, the location of a church at the centre of South Korea’s outbreak, the KCDC said in a statement.

The death toll from the virus stood at 13, unchanged from the day earlier.

The coronavirus, which originated in China, has rapidly spread to more than 40 other countries and territories.

China

A worker disinfects journalists visiting the Mengniu dairy factory in Beijing on Thursday [Ng Han Guan/AP]

00:02 GMT – Coronavirus risk to Americans low, but can change: US health secretary

The risk to American people from coronavirus is low, but that could change, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Thursday.

“We have really been able to keep the risk to the Americans low right now so that everyday Americans don’t need to be worried, but that can change and that’s why it’s important for all of us to prepare,” Azar said at a White House event with President Donald Trump.

23:48 GMT – Thursday – US grants sanctions waiver for humanitarian trade to Iran

The US on Thursday granted a licence to allow for certain humanitarian trade transactions with Iran’s sanctioned central bank, a move it said was in step with the formalisation of a Swiss humanitarian trade channel.

The newly created channel, which the US Treasury Department said became fully operational on Thursday as it granted the licence, would allow for companies to send food, medicine and other critical supplies to Iran.

This comes as Iran is grappling with a rapidly increasing number of coronavirus cases which have already killed at least two dozen people.


Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus from our bureau in Kuala Lumpur – Ted Regencia

Click here to read updates from Thursday, February 27.





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Julian Assange hearing: ‘journalism is no excuse for breaking law’ | UK news


Reporting for journalism is not an excuse for breaking laws, lawyers acting for the US government have said on the first day of a legal battle over whether the Wikileaks founder can be extradited from the UK.

The US case was opened on Monday at Woolwich crown court in south-east London by James Lewis QC, who said that by disseminating material in an unredacted form he knowingly put human rights activists, dissidents, journalists and their families at risk of serious harm in states operated by oppressive regimes.

“The defence seek to suggest that the risk to these individuals who, by having the individuals revealed as informants, is somehow overstated. I would remind the court that these were individuals who were passing on information on regimes such as Iran and organisations such as al-Qaida.”

Assange, 48, is wanted in the US to face 18 charges of attempted hacking and breaches of the Espionage Act. They relate to the publication a decade ago of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and files covering areas including US activities in Afghanistan and Iraq. He could face a 175-year prison sentence if found guilty

The Australian is accused of working with the former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak classified documents.

Assange’s case has drawn widespread support , including from the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, who said last week that he should not be extradited because of the potential impact on press freedom and concerns about “the real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment”.

Supporters of Julian Assange call for his freedom outside court in south-east London



Supporters of Julian Assange call for his freedom outside court. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

His father, John Shipton, has said Assange would face what was effectively a “death sentence” if sent to the US.

The first week of the extradition trial is expected to focus on legal argument before the case is adjourned until 18 May.

Assange’s lawyers will open the defence case on Tuesday, which is expected to expand on claims that emerged last week that Donald Trump had offered Assange a pardon if he would say Russia was not involved in Wikileaks’ publication of US Democratic party emails that had an impact on the Hilary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

The defence will outline a number of “abuse of power” arguments and is expected to argue that Assange’s extradition should not take place on the the basis of a clause in the 2003 UK-US extradition treaty, which prohibits extraditions for political offences.

Hearings at the end of this week will focus on whether a number of witnesses can be allowed to give evidence anonymously.

Assange has been held on remand in Belmarsh prison since last September after serving a 50-week jail sentence for breaching bail conditions. Assange sought refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was accused of sexual offences.

However, Swedish prosecutors said last November they were discontinuing an investigation into a rape allegation, explaining that although the complainant’s evidence was deemed credible and reliable, witnesses’ memories had faded over the decade since the allegations were first made. Assange has always denied the allegations.

He was removed from the embassy last April and was arrested for failing to surrender to the court.



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