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Coronavirus: Italian deaths surge to record

March 21, 2020

Italy has recorded a record number of deaths from the coronavirus outbreak. Germany has more than 20,000 cases as states tighten restrictions. Follow DW for the latest.

Italian soldiers wearing protective masks work at a roadblock
Image: Reuters/A. Parrinello

  • Global reported cases reached 300,000, with the global death toll nearing 13,000
  • Almost 800 people have died in just 24 hours in Italy and the prime minister ordered the closure of all non-essential factories and companies
  • Half of the people in intensive care due to the virus in France are under the age of 60
  • The EU has suspended budget rules for member states, allowing greater borrowing

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

23:08 Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte ordered a nationwide closure of all non-essential factories and companies on Saturday.

"The decision taken by the government is to close down all productive activity throughout the territory that is not strictly necessary, crucial, indispensable, to guarantee us essential goods and services," he said on TV.

Essentials like groceries and pharmacies will stay open, he stressed, adding that the country is living through "its gravest crisis since World War II."

22:52 Kuwait has announced a nationwide curfew on Sunday in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The curfew will be imposed from 5 p.m. on Sunday until 4 a.m.

22:58 Tunisia will allocate 2.5 billion dinars (€793 million, $850 million) to fighting the economic and social effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. The country has 60 confirmed coronavirus cases.

The government has also introduced measures to delay tax debts, taxes on small-sized and medium-sized businesses, as well as repayment of low-income employee loans.

22:40 Lorenzo Sanz, the former president of Spain's Real Madrid football team, died on Saturday after being infected with COVID-19. Sanz, who presided over the club from 1995 until 2000, was 76.

He was being treated for the virus since the start of this week.

Sanz led Real Madrid to two European titles, a Spanish Super Cup title and a Spanish league title during his time at the club.

22:26 Bolivia has indefinitely postponed the general election previously scheduled for May this year amid coronavirus fears. The country has recorded 19 confirmed coronavirus cases.

The presidential election was earlier set for May 3 after Evo Morales resigned late last year.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal said that it looked forward to a "broad and pluralistic dialogue with all the political organizations participating in the process" in order to determine "a new date" this year.

21:50 Switzerland reported a 25% increase in confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, taking the number of infections in the country up to 6,100. The death toll in the Alpine nation currently stands at 56.

Measures have been taken to ban people over the age of 65 from leaving their homes to shop in the canton of Ticino, which borders Italy. The area has reported 918 COVID-19 cases and 28 deaths.

19:35 Germany's disinfectant producers are working around the clock during the coronavirus pandemic. According to a new report from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, however, they are facing a shortage of ethanol. Health Minister Jens Spahn is reportedly calling for ethanol being used in other industries to be directed toward the production of disinfectants. According to current estimates, disinfectant-makers will have to significantly scale back production in two weeks' time if their supply of ethanol is not secured.

19:00 Turkey has banned citizens over the age of 65 and those with chronic health conditions from leaving their homes. The restrictions will be enforced from midnight and social support groups will ensure their basic needs are met, according to the Interior Ministry. Old people and those with underlying health conditions are most at risk from the virus.

Across Turkey, most public places have been shut down, along with businesses, sporting events and religious meetings. At least 670 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and nine people have died in Turkey.

18:36 French authorities have reported 112 deaths in the past 24 hours, and over 6,000 hospital admissions. The total death toll now stands at 562. The rise in deaths comes as health authorities ordered 250 million surgical face masks and more testing kits to ease a nationwide shortage. There have been 12,612 cases of coronavirus in the country. Half of the people in intensive care are under the age of 60. 

17:34 Italian officials have recorded 793 dead and 6,557 new cases in just one day. The leap in deaths represents an increase of 19.6% from the previous day, the largest daily rise in absolute terms since the contagion emerged a month ago.

The new deaths bring the total death toll in the country up to 4,825. Italy overtook China on Thursday as the country to register most deaths from the virus. 

The latest total number of recorded cases in the country stands at 53,578 — over half of China's total confirmed infections.

The outbreak has mostly been confined to the country's north Lombardy regions, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all fatalities. Italy's health infrastructure and workers have been overwhelmed with the number and severity of cases.

17:28 Here is the latest from the Americas:

US: Tens of millions of people in the United States are under lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. New Jersey on Saturday became the latest state to order residents to stay at home, following New York, Illinois and California. A restriction on non-essential travel on the Canadian and Mexican borders is due to come into effect on Saturday. More than 19,000 infections have been confirmed in the US, with over 270 deaths. Meanwhile, US Vice President Mike Pence has said he will be tested for COVID-19, after a member of his own staff tested positive.

Mexico: It has reported more than 200 cases, with two deaths. There is no nationwide restriction on large public gatherings, however. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador continues to hold public rallies.

Guatemala: It has ordered an eight-day curfew, to take effect on Sunday. The move follows similar measures being taken in Bolivia, Colombia and Argentina.

Brazil: The number of reported infections has topped 900, while foreigners have been barred from entering the country.

Cuba: Havana also announced it is closing its borders.

Panama: The major regional air hub said that flagship carrier Copa Airlines is suspending all flights for 30 days.

Isolation drill in Bogota

16:48 Here is the latest from Africa:

More than 1,100 cases of COVID-19 have been reported across the continent, as of Saturday.  Many countries in Africa struggle with fragile health care systems and face serious challenges instituting social distancing in cities with densely packed populations.

Egypt: It reported 285 coronavirus infections and eight deaths. The country's Islamic and Christian religious authorities on Saturday moved to close mosques and churches for two weeks. 

Tunisia: It ordered a nationwide quarantine on Friday which go in effect on Sunday, while Morocco declared a state of emergency. In Algeria, the number of infections has risen to 94, with 11 deaths.

Nigeria: The most populous country in Africa announced it is closing its airports to international flights for one month. There are 22 confirmed cases in the country.

South Africa: Africa's busiest international airport, in Johannesburg, yesterday banned foreigners from disembarking. South Africa has the most confirmed cases of any country in sub-Saharan Africa with 240. Meanwhile, Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways have announced sweeping international flight cancellations. 

Burkina Faso: It reported two deaths, the most of any sub-Saharan African country. Several government ministers have tested positive, as the number of coronavirus cases rose to 64 on Saturday.

DR Congo: The vast country has also reported its first COVID-19 death.

Angola: It has announced its first confirmed coronavirus infection. The country closed its land, sea and air ports of entry this week.

Read more: Fake news obstructs Africa's coronavirus response

16:42 Here's a summary of the latest developments in the Balkans:

Albania: Its army will begin enforcing a 40-hour curfew after its citizens flouted measures aimed at stemming the virus. So far, 76 people have tested positive for the coronavirus with two deaths.

Bosnia: The country registered its first death from the coronavirus. So far, authorities have reported 90 cases of the virus.

Kosovo: Citizens banged pots and pans in protest against political in-fighting that is holding up a response to the crisis. There are currently two confirmed cases of the virus.

Bulgaria: Its Orthodox Church urged Christians to stay away from churches, and closed schools, parks and playgrounds. Non-essential travel has been restricted and the army has been given special powers to support government efforts. The country has reported 142 cases and three deaths so far.

Greece: The country received 500,000 facemasks donated in part by Chinese public electricity company State Grid. The FFP2 masks will be distributed to hospitals. Strict measures are in place in the country with a complete lockdown on the way if government recommendations are ignored. So far, there are 495 cases and six deaths confirmed by authorities.

15:56 The UK's National Health Service (NHS) has reached an agreement with independent hospitals in Britain for more beds, ventilators and thousands of health care workers to curb the coronavirus pandemic. The extra equipment and staff will be available next week.

NHS England said nearly 20,000 qualified health care workers will join the UK's coronavirus response effort as the country braces for a surge in cases.

15:44 German Labor Minister Hubertus Heil says the government will ease access to the country's social welfare program for the long-term unemployed, known as Hartz IV. "We are are now making sure that the time-consuming means testing will be dropped for six months starting April 1," he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. "Moreover, everyone can continue to stay in their homes." Heil said that lifting bureaucratic hurdles involved in dispensing Hartz IV benefits would help people avoid "hitting rock bottom."

The Labor Ministry expects 1.2 million additional people to apply for Hartz IV amid the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus crisis.

15:27 Bavaria and Saarland are reporting success with their partial lockdowns, with very few violations. Bavaria has drawn criticism for its solitary approach to initiating a lockdown.

Read more: Germany reports few violations as states impose coronavirus lockdowns

Across Germany's 16 states, public life is being restricted. Schools are shut and there limits on public and private gatherings. Non-essential shops and bars are closed or operating under shortened opening hours. 

In Bavaria leaving the house is only permitted under certain circumstances, and is advisedly done alone. In Baden-Württemberg fines of up to €25,000 ($27,000) or a prison sentence can be issued for anyone breaking the lockdown conditions.

North Rhine-Westphalia has yet to order a full lockdown, but further restrictions are expected to come into force later next week.

15:18 Georgia, in the Caucasus region, has declared a state of emergency. The government will now be able to control food and medicine prices if necessary. Neighboring Armenia is also closing all non-essential shops from Sunday. 

Central Asian Kyrgyzstan has also declared a state of emergency.

14:58 German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has agreed to a comprehensive rescue package worth €150 billion ($161 billion). The government also wants to change borrowing rules to permit higher borrowing than is currently allowed.

"We need to ensure that the economy works with the current situation, to save as many jobs as possible and ensure social distancing but not in a way that will endanger jobs or businesses," said Scholz.

"In order to compensate for the forecasted loss in tax revenues and to finance the measures to combat the coronavirus, the Federal Ministry of Finance is authorized to take out loans" amounting to 156 billion euros for 2020, according to a copy of a bill seen by AFP news agency. 

Hospitals are expected to receive billion in compensation from the government for postponed operations, according to German newspaper Bild. Hospitals will also receive around €30,000 for the provision of each additional intensive care bed.

14:55 Intensive care physicians in Germany are raising the alarm about a massive price hike in important drugs. Gernot Marx from the German Society for Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine (DGAI) told the German press agency DPA that the price of the anesthetic Propofol had risen from €1 to more than €20 per ampule as a result of a supply bottleneck.

"This means that anesthesia for emergency patients could be endangered, and the possibilities of putting patients in intensive care units into an 'induced sleep' for ventilation could soon be severely limited," Marx said. 

Another official from the DGAI said shortages of antibiotics, which are used to treat infection, and opiates were also a major cause of concern.

14:22 Here's what has happened so far today:

Germany: Coronavirus cases in Germany passed 20,000. So far 70 people have died from COVID-19 across the country. Several German states have imposed lockdown measures, and government officials say they are monitoring citizens' behavior on Saturday to assess whether tighter restrictions are needed.  

Spain: The coronavirus death toll jumped by 300 to 1,326. The number of infections also climbed by 5,000 in 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to almost 25,000. Spain now has the third largest tally of infections behind China and Italy.

Portugal: The death toll doubled. Twelve people have now died of COVID-19 there, while more than 1,200 people are infected. Portugal declared a state of emergency last week.

Pakistan: It has halted international flights. The ban is expected to remain in place for two weeks, but does not apply to cargo and diplomatic flights.

EU: The European Commission is to suspend budget rules. The EU's executive arm has moved closer to lifting rules that limit borrowing so that member states have more flexibility in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reports. 

Iran: Iran hopes to contain the outbreak within a few weeks. President Hassan Rouhani said the government was doing "everything necessary to return economic production to normal," and expected to be able to lift travel and social distancing restrictions in two to three weeks' time.

Africa: Confirmed coronavirus infections in Africa passed 1,000. Angola and Zimbabwe became the latest countries on the continent to record their first cases.

South Korea: The prime minister has called for stricter anti-virus measures. Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun said he "strongly recommended'' religious facilities, gyms and clubs close for the next 15 days to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. There are concerns about a rapid rise in cases in the capital, Seoul.

Singapore: It reported its first coronavirus deaths. The first fatality was confirmed as a 75-year-old woman, and the second was a 64-year-old man.

Thailand: Capital Bangkok closed malls and restaurants. The measure came into force as the country recorded its single-largest daily increase of 89 cases.

Australia: Sydney's famous Bondi beach has been closed. The decision was announced after beachgoers apparently ignored the government's social distancing rules.

14:05 Germany is enacting measures to help protect renters during the coronavirus pandemic. A bill from the Federal Ministry for Justice and Consumer Protection says that tenants cannot have their leases canceled because of rent debt, the dpa press agency reported. The period of coverage runs from April 1 to September 30, 2020, but it can be extended. Tenants will eventually have to pay the rent they owe. Currently, tenants in Germany who owe two months' rent can have their leases canceled.

13:30 Calls are growing louder for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizing committee to postpone the Summer Games due to the coronavirus crisis.

Brazil's Olympic Committee on Saturday said the event should be pushed back to next year because of the seriousness of the pandemic and "the consequent difficulty for athletes to keep their best competitive level.'' That plea followed similar requests from Norway, Slovenia and Colombia as well as the US track and field team.

The International Olympic Committee has said it plans to go ahead with the event in July, stating that it is too early to make a decision about whether it should be postponed or not.

Germany's athletics president Jürgen Kessing called for a one year delay to the games,  much like football's European Championships.

Read more: Tokyo 2020: What happens if coronavirus causes the Olympics to be canceled?

12:37 Portugal says its COVID-19 death toll doubled overnight to 12, Reuters reports. The country's health authority said the number of confirmed cases also rose from 1,059 to 1,280, with 35 of those patients in intensive care. Portugal's government declared a state of emergency on Wednesday.

12:22 The German Farmers' Association is warning that a dramatic shortage of seasonal workers due to the coronavirus crisis could have serious implications for planting and harvesting.

"We need practicable short-term solutions, especially for special crops," such as asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb, association chief Joachim Rukwied told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.

The newspaper also cited a letter from Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner addressed to other Cabinet members, proposing that unemployed, short-time workers — or even self-employed people who had no income because of the pandemic — be recruited to work in the agriculture sector. Another option, she said, was employing asylum-seekers as seasonal workers.

12:11 London Mayor Sadiq Khan says hundreds of the city's homeless people are being housed in hotels to give them "vital protection" from the coronavirus, AFP news agency reports.

A statement from the mayor's office said 300 rooms had been made available in two hotels for the next 12 weeks so that people without shelter could self-isolate.

"The coronavirus outbreak affects everyone in London and we must do all we can to safeguard everyone's health — not least those Londoners who face spending each night sleeping rough on the capital's streets," said Khan.

Read more: Washington, D.C. risks wave of 'people dying in communal shelter

So far, 177 people have died in the UK from COVID-19, and the number of infections stands at over 4,000.

11:55 Spain's death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has jumped by more than 300 over the past day to 1,326, according to figures from the country's Health Ministry. 

The number of new infections also climbed by 5,000 in 24 hours, bringing the total number of reported cases to almost 25,000. Spain is now in third place in the global ranking of cases, behind China and Italy.

The capital, Madrid, is the hardest-hit area, with almost 9,000 infections reported. The country has been under lockdown for one week, but authorities say it may take time before the measures slow the spread.

11:30 Germany has reported 20,142 cases of the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. 294 new cases have been reported since Friday. The country has thus far seen a total of 70 deaths from COVID-19 cases.

11:07 Pakistan's civil aviation authority says it is halting all international flights for two weeks in a bid to contain the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reports.

"The government of Pakistan has decided to suspend operation of all international passenger, chartered and private flights to Pakistan, effective from 21st March 2020 (2000hrs PST) to 4th April 2020 (2000hrs PST)," it said in a statement.

The directive does not apply to diplomatic and cargo flights. Pakistan now has 534 reported COVID-19 cases, including three deaths, Health Minister Zafar Mirya said.

The government has taken a number of steps to control the spread of the virus, but has stopped short of imposing a nationwide lockdown. 

10:49 The southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg is opening its hospitals to patients from a neighboring region of eastern France, where facilities are struggling to cope with a spike in infections, media reports say.

A spokesman for the state's health ministry, Markus Jox, told the Associated Press that authorities have asked hospitals with free capacity to admit French patients who require ventilators. Jox said that while Baden-Württemberg also had a limited number of beds, "we will naturally try to help our French neighbors.''

10:40 Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton says he is self-isolating after coming into contact with people who tested positive for coronavirus. The British racing driver was at a charity event in London on March 4, which was also attended by actor Idris Elba and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, the wife of Canada's prime minister. Both were later diagnosed with the virus.

Hamilton wrote on Twitter that he is showing "zero symptoms'' but has been isolating himself for the past week.

For more news about how coronavirus is impacting sports, follow DW's live coverage here: Coronavirus and sports worldwide

10:27 The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has moved closer to suspending the bloc's budget rules that limit borrowing in order to give member states a free hand in fighting the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reports. The step would formalize an agreement reached by EU finance ministers on March 5.

The commission proposed late Friday to activate the "general escape clause" in the rules to respond to the pandemic. That would "allow member states to undertake measures to deal adequately with the crisis, while departing from the budgetary requirements that would normally apply under the European fiscal framework," the Commission said.

Once the proposal is approved by EU finance ministers, government spending to combat the coronavirus will be excluded from the commission's calculations for countries' deficit and debt, which have to meet certain requirements.

10:19 Angola has become the latest African country to report its first case of the coronavirus. "Today we received results confirming two cases of patients infected with COVID-19," Health Minister Silvia Lutucuta said during a briefing on national broadcaster TPA.

The announcement comes as the number of infections in Africa topped 1,000, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A person at Berlin's Alexanderplatz wearing a face mask
Though several German states have begun lockdown measures, the federal government in Berlin is closely monitoring the situation over the weekend with an eye toward a possible national lockdownImage: Getty Images/S. Gallup

09:42 The premier of the German state of Bavaria has appealed for a common approach across the country to tackle the coronavirus crisis, which he described as "really a matter of life and death."

Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder was talking to Antenne Bayern radio on Saturday morning, a day after his state imposed a two-week lockdown in an effort to curb the virus outbreak.

"I'm very sorry that we sometimes have to do it this way," he said, referring to the measures, which allow people to only leave their homes for necessary purposes, such as to go to work, or buy groceries or medicine.

Police in the southern German state reported only a few violations during the first hours of Bavaria's attempt to enforce the lockdown. Officers reportedly gave warnings to five youths celebrating a birthday at a construction site, and to a group of three people drinking around a bonfire. Under the new restrictions, people can only leave their homes for essential needs, such as to buy food and medicine, to visit the doctor or travel to work.

The premiers of all of Germany's 16 states are due to discuss the possibility of further restrictions with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday.

Read more: German states move closer to near-total lockdown

09:33 The coronavirus pandemic has halted public life in many countries around the world, but some people are coming up with creative ways to reach out to others. In the US state of Maryland, Catholic priest Scott Holmer has started offering drive-through confessions to his parishioners. His church was forced to close due to the outbreak, but he now sits on a wooden chair in the parking lot outside his chapel in the small town of Bowie to hold contact-free confessions and blessings to drivers who pull up.

"The diocese canceled all masses to tamp down the spread of the infection. But the decision about confession was kind of up in the air," he told AFP.

"So I said, I'll just get in the parking lot, and that way I can avoid getting it myself and people can avoid any transmission. It's more open air, so there's like air flow and all that good stuff."

09:15 For a clear overview of what the coronavirus figures and tricky terminology mean, take a look at DW's explainer: How to make sense of the numbers and terminology

08:57 The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that on Friday it launched a free health alert messaging service via WhatsApp. The service provides the latest news and information on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, with guidance on how to protect oneself and recognize symptoms. 

08:41 Zimbabwe has announced its first case of the novel coronavirus. That means there are now 38 African countries that have reported COVID-19 infections.

Health Minister Obadiah Moyo said the 38-year-old patient had just returned from the UK and had self-quarantined after he began experiencing symptoms. He added that officials were now tracing anyone the man may have had contact with.

More than 700 coronavirus cases have now been recorded in Africa, where there are fears the virus could rapidly overwhelm health systems.

08: 32 In Germany, the mounting coronavirus crisis has led to speculation that the government in Berlin will impose a state of emergency for the first time ever. But what does that actually mean, especially for citizens' rights? Find out here: What is a state of emergency in Germany?

08:22 The tiny Southeast Asian nation of East Timor has reported its first confirmed case of the coronavirus. The country's Health Ministry said the man had just returned from overseas and posed little risk to the public because he consulted with medical officials immediately.

"He isolated himself immediately after contacting doctors," the ministry said Saturday, without elaborating on where the patient had traveled.

08:08 Iran's president says travel and social distancing measures in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus will apply for two to three weeks, by which time he expects the outbreak to have eased.

Iran "has to do everything necessary to return economic production to normal," President Hassan Rouhani said in comments broadcast on state TV and cited by Reuters. He also accused "counterrevolutionaries" of attempting to shut down economic production.

Iran is among the countries hardest hit by the corona crisis, with more than 1,400 deaths.

Read more: Iran faces catastrophic death toll from coronavirus

07:56 South Korean Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun has "strongly recommended'' the country's religious facilities, gyms and clubs to close for the next 15 days to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

In a nationally televised speech on Saturday, he said the government would use administrative orders to shut down facilities that are failing to enforce distance limits between people. Similar steps have already been taken in Gyeonggi province, surrounding the capital, Seoul, where facilities can be fined as much as $2,400 (€2,230) if they do not implement certain antivirus measures.

South Korea has been praised for swiftly taking measures to tackle the epidemic, after the number of new cases began slowing significantly in recent days. But there are still fears about a steady increase of infections in Seoul.

The fight against coronavirus

07:31 The family of US country music star Kenny Rogers, who died on Friday night at the age of 81, said they would hold only a small funeral service "at this time out of concern for the national COVID-19 emergency."  

07:25 The Thai capital, Bangkok, is closing its shopping centers and restaurants from Sunday until April 12. The city's governor says only supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open.

In its single-largest daily increase, the Southeast Asian country's Ministry of Health confirmed 89 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday.

06:59 American tech company Google said on Saturday it had launched a US-focused informational website with resources for coronavirus guidance and testing, as the country attempts to slow the spread of the highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc., said in a statement the site is "focused on education, prevention and local resources. People can find state-based information, safety and prevention tips, search trends related to COVID-19, and further resources for individuals, educators and businesses."

05:50 Jordan blew sirens early Saturday morning to signal the start of a nationwide curfew with only few exceptions for emergencies and essential services. The Middle Eastern country has limited the mobility of its 10 million citizens indefinitely to combat coronavirus. Individuals violating the curfew will be subject to jail terms of one year. 

The country has closed its land and sea border crossings with neighboring Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Israel. It also suspended all incoming and outgoing flights since Tuesday.

05:40 The Philippines' Health Ministry reported an additional death due to the coronavirus on Saturday, bringing the death toll in the archipelagic country to 19. Its confirmed infection total was up to 262 people from 230 on Friday. 

04:58 Thailand reported 89 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, the single-largest daily increase that has taken the total number of COVID-19 infections in the country to 411.

According to a spokesperson for the public health ministry, the new cases are related to a Muay Thai match, an entertainment venue as well as a religious gathering in Malaysia.

04:14 The total number of domestically-transmitted coronavirus cases in Japan rose to 1,016 on Saturday. The number increases to 1,728 if the infections from a cruise ship docked close to Tokyo are added to the tally.

While the country faces uncertainty over the Olympics scheduled for July this year, Japan is set to reopen schools from the next academic year in April.

04:02 Singapore reported the death of two patients with coronavirus on Saturday, the first COVID-19-related deaths in the country. The first fatality was a 75-year-old female and the second was a 64-year-old male Indonesian national.

"Our thoughts are with their families during this difficult time," Singapore's Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong said in a statement. "We will render all necessary assistance to their families.

"I understand that Singaporeans will be affected by this news," he added. "But we must take courage and continue to play our part to fight this virus."

Read more: COVID-19: Recovered patients have partially reduced lung function

03:33 Colombia is set to enter a 19-day quarantine starting Tuesday night, President Ivan Duque said on Friday. With 158 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the South American country is stepping up measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19. 

While the Colombian capital of Bogota started its 4-day quarantine on Friday, the rest of the country will join on Tuesday.

03:25 Sydney's Bondi Beach was closed on Saturday after visitors ignored the Australian government's social distancing guidelines. 

"We are not doing this because we are the fun police, but if we have a community that is not complying with the social distancing requirements then we have to step in," New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott said.

03:08 United Airlines on Friday announced that it will cut its international schedule for April by 95% in light of the travel restrictions that have been imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus. All flights to Canada will be suspended temporarily, while other operations will be drawn down significantly.

This comes soon after the company and its labor unions said that huge layoffs were on the cards if the US government is unable to help the ailing airline industry by the end of this month.

Read more: Fragile airline sector struggles to beat coronavirus

02:55 US senators and the Trump administration paused negotiations on a massive $1 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus bill at the end of the day on Friday. Even though the midnight deadline on Friday will be missed, talks are set to resume on Saturday.

02:53 Yosemite National Park has been closed to visitors "until further notice" amid rising concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. 

The California park's closure comes at the request of the local health department, a day after the state's governor asked California residents to stay at home indefinitely.

02:28 A Canadian man in his 70s, who was infected with COVID-19 while he was on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, has died, Japan's Health Ministry said on Saturday.

A total of 712 people were infected while they were onboard the cruise ship. The death of the Canadian man is the eighth confirmed death from amongt those infected on the ship.

02:10 The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has postponed a crime congress that was scheduled to take place in Kyoto, Japan next month. 

02:02 Daimler and BMW announced that they will be shutting some parts of their US operations temporarily over coronavirus fears. 

BMW will halt production at its South Carolina plant for two weeks starting April 3, while Daimler will stop production at its Tuscaloosa, Alabama plant for two weeks. The German carmaker's subsidiary Vans will also close down production temporarily in Charleston, South Carolina.

01:47 Syria has closed its borders to foreigners from many countries, as the war-torn country tries to combat the coronavirus pandemic. The government, however, has not documented any cases.

"If we take the scenarios in China or even in Iran, we are expecting we may have a large number of cases and we are preparing accordingly," WHO's Syria representative Nima Saeed Abid told Reuters.

01:16 South Korea reported 147 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 8,799.

The country has ordered that all passengers arriving from Europe must be quarantined for 14 days, regardless of symptoms, starting Sunday.

Social distancing in S. Korea

01:15 Mexico has reported 203 confirmed coronavirus cases, up from 164 a day earlier. 

01:11 Volkswagen will temporarily close its factories in the Mexican states of Puebla and Guanajuato, as concerns over the coronavirus pandemic spread across the region.

01:07 Starbucks has announced a temporary closure of its company-operated stores in the US and Canada for a period of two weeks. Only drive-through and delivery services will continue, the company said in a statement.

The exception to this rule would be some locations near hospitals in order to "serve frontline responders and health care workers," the company said.

All store "partners" (employees) will be paid for the next 30 days, regardless of whether they come into work or choose to stay at home, Starbucks added.

00:55 Mainland China experienced a rise in the number of coronavirus infections involving travelers arriving from abroad, even as zero locally transmitted cases were reported for the third day in a row.

With 41 new cases imported from abroad, the number of cases originating from outside the country has risen to 269. Overall, there are 81,008 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in mainland China.

"Wuhan provides hope for the rest of the world that even the most severe situation can be turned around," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual news conference in Geneva.

00:27 The US Air Force is flying back 89 American citizens stranded in Honduras amidst the coronavirus outbreak. This is the second flight of its kind after an Air Force transport plane brought members of a women's football team from Honduras to the United States.

Read more: Doctor refutes Trump claim on efficacy of malaria drug to treat coronavirus

Covid-19: US caught off guard?

00:17 New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asked citizens to avoid all non-essential travel on Saturday. She also urged older citizens to try and stay at home amidst the coronavirus outbreak.

Ardern, however, maintained that schools will remain open in the country, which has seen over 50 confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

"Sending children home at this stage, though, doesn't necessarily reduce transmission in the community," she said, "but I can assure you we are constantly monitoring these settings to keep children safe."

"As a mum, I can assure you that is my key consideration," Ardern added.

00:06 Panama reported 200 confirmed cases of coronavirus on Friday, a sharp increase from 137 a day earlier. The country's Copa Airlines will be suspending all flights from March 22 till the end of April.

Read more: German, US companies sign deal to develop vaccine

00:04 The US Senate may not be able to arrive at a bipartisan deal on a possible $1 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus bill by the Friday midnight deadline, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Friday. Citing some major disagreements between the Republicans and the Democrats, he said that consensus may be reached on Saturday.

00:02 The United States Army announced that it will close all recruitment centers in the country to prevent the coronavirus outbreak from intensifying. With this, the Army has become the first military service worldwide known to have shut down its recruiting facilities.

The Navy and Marine Corps will be keeping their recruitment stations open, but in line with government guidelines. 

00:00 Catch up on yesterday's coronavirus developments here: Top official says 'No shortages' in Germany

see,jsi, nm/kl (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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