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Coronavirus: Merkel in quarantine

March 22, 2020

German authorities have issued a ban on more than two people meeting. Authorities say such a ban makes more sense than locking people in their homes. Follow DW for the latest.

Merkel arrives to make a press statement on the spread of the new coronavirus
Image: AFP/M. Kappeler

Germany has announced heavy restrictions on contact between people

  • Angela Merkel must go into quarantine after meeting with an infected doctor 
  • The global death toll from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic has surpassed 13,500 people with more than 313,000 known infected
  • Over 95,000 globally have recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus
  • Italy has ordered all nonessential production to shut down in what its prime minister called the country's "gravest crisis since World War II."

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

23:28 A European clinical trial to assess four possible experimental treatments for the novel coronavirus has been launched in France.

French public health research body Inserm said the study would involve some 3,200 people who have been hospitalized with severe COVID-19 symptoms. The patients are expected to be drawn from Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Britain, France, Luxembourg and Spain, Inserm said in a statement.

The researchers are looking at the drugs remdesivir and lopinavir, as well as ritonavir when administered with or without interferon beta and hydroxychloroquine.

22:53 US President Donald Trump says mobile emergency stations with a capacity of 4,000 hospital beds will be set up in states hard-hit by the coronavirus.

"We are enduring a great national trial," Trump said during a press briefing at the White House on Sunday. He told reporters 2,000 beds will go to California, and 1,000 each to New York and Washington state.

The announcement comes after state leaders appealed to the federal government to provide more support and health supplies, such as ventilators.

Trump said every resource was being mobilized to stop the virus from spreading, and urged Americans to follow social distancing directives.

The US has so far recorded 32,644 COVID-19 infections — the third highest tally behind China and Italy, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul became the first member of the Senate to announce he had tested positive for the virus. At least two members of the House of Representatives have also said they had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

22:45 Here is the latest from Europe's three hardest-hit countries:

Italy: After shutting down all non-essential factories and companies in the country, Italy is looking at highly specific measures to control the coronavirus outbreak. In the hardest-hit region of Lombardy, the government has banned any exercise that cannot be carried out on personal property and set a radius for how far people can take their dogs for a walk: 200 meters. Fines for violations have been raised to €5,000 ($5,345). Two-thirds of the coronavirus-related deaths in the country have been reported from this region.

Latest figures: 59,138 infected, 5,476 deaths

Spain: Spain sought to extend its state of emergency until April 11, close to a month after it was imposed on March 14. Stating that the country is "at war," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez hinted at a larger role for the military in response to the spreading pandemic. He also added that the EU "can do and must do more" to help member nations deal with the economic impact of coronavirus

Latest figures: 28,603 infected, 1,756 deaths

France: A 67-year-old emergency room medic became the first medical professional to die of coronavirus in the country. In light of the spike in COVID-19 fatalities, the French government is imposing tougher penalties on people who defy the nationwide confinement order. Penalties may range from €135 to €3,700 ($3,960). A prison term of six months has also been approved for repeat offenses.

Latest figures: 14,485 infected, 562 deaths

20:58 To meet the demand for vital healthcare supplies, businesses more used to producing high-end fashion have turned to producing facemasks and gowns and alcohol distilleries have become hand-sanitizer factories. 

Here's a summary of the new products that some companies are now moving to manufacture:

  • H&M, the world's second-biggest fashion retailer, will make personal protective equipment for hospitals in the EU, after discussions with the bloc. Protective masks are the main priority, but gowns and gloves are also badly needed.
  • High-end fashion labels Saint Laurent and Balenciaga will start making face masks, said French parent group Kering.
  • Inditex, which owns the Zara brand, offered to make hospital gowns for hospitals in Spain and also make its logistics and supplier network available to help meet the country's needs for protective masks, gloves, goggles and caps.
  • UK-based McLaren Group Ltd., known for producing luxury sports cars, is looking at how to design a simple version of a ventilator. The British government said it has increased its stocks to about 8,000 ventilators.
  • Rum producer Bacardi said its Puerto Rico-based distillery has shifted to making ethanol needed to produce hand sanitizer. 
  • Germany-based Beiersdorf, known for skin care products such as the Nivea and Coppertone brands, is preparing to make medical disinfectants in Europe for hospitals, police and firefighters. 
  • French cosmetics giant L'Oreal says it is making sanitizer gel.

Companies that already produce medical supplies are also looking to ramp-up production:

  • Swiss-based Hamilton Medical AG expects to increase production to about 21,000 ventilators this year.
  • Dutch health technology company Philips is aiming to double its production of hospital ventilators within the next eight weeks and achieve a four-fold increase by the third quarter of this year. Despite this, the company says it is expecting the COVID-19 outbreak to impact profits.

20:44 Here is the latest from across the Americas:

Colombia: A deadly riot broke out in a prison in Bogota, leaving 23 inmates dead, as tensions rise over the spread of the coronavirus in one of the most vulnerable locations: overcrowded and often violent penitentiaries. Latest figures: 231 infected, 2 deaths.

Venezuela: Family members of jailed opposition activists say they fear for their loved ones amid unconfirmed reports that four police officers at the country's most notorious jail for political prisoners have come down sick with the virus. Latest figures: 70 infected, no reported deaths

Brazil: President Jair Bolsonaro has denied the country's healthcare system will collapse next month, contradicting his own health minister. A statewide quarantine order will come into effect on Tuesday in Sao Paulo state, shutting down all but non-essential businesses and services. Latest figures: 1,209 infected, 18 deaths.

United States: President Donald Trump is lashing out at governors and other lawmakers who have been critical about the federal response to the pandemic. Trump has tweeted that they should not be "blaming the federal government for their own shortcomings.'' Latest figures: 26,747 infected, 400 deaths.

New York City: The Big Apple is days away from running out of essential equipment needed to keep hospitals running, its mayor, Bill de Blasio, has warned, likening the coronavirus pandemic to the Great Depression.

Canada: The death toll has jumped almost 50% in less than a day. The country has already closed its borders to all but essential travel and announced a C$27 billion ($19 billion, €17.75 billion) aid package for people and businesses most affected. The House of Commons will return on Tuesday to approve further measures to deal with the crisis. Latest figures: 1,378 infected, 19 deaths.

Mexico: President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says he believes the central bank should be careful with the country's international reserves, which in his view should not be used to fight the depreciation of the peso currency. Latest figures: 251 infected, 2 deaths.

Argentina: Authorities have temporarily detained more than 3,200 people since the start of a curfew to combat the pandemic. Among them were 44 teenagers who had gathered for a picnic and many motorists for traffic violations. Latest figures: 225 infected, 4 deaths.

Read more: Coronavirus: Asian-Americans in Seattle 'fear potential physical violence'

19:30 The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says that in the next four weeks it will consider postponing the Tokyo Olympics and other scenarios, such as "modifying existing operational plans."  The games are due to be held from July 24 – August 9 and the IOC had been adamant that the pandemic would not affect the planned timeframe. But in recent weeks the IOC has come under increasing pressure to consider different options due to the pandemic affecting athlete training, qualifying events and games preparations. The IOC repeated in its statement that "cancellation is not on the agenda."

Read more: Coronavirus has Olympic athletes 'running on the spot' — sports scientist

19:22 Here is the latest from across Africa:

Ethiopia: A cargo flight from Guangzhou, China has arrived in Addis Ababa with 5 million face masks, nearly 2 million testing kits, 40,000 sets of protective clothing and 60,000 face shields. The care package from Chinese billionaire Jack Ma will be distributed to African nations in need of the supplies. Latest figures: 11 infected, no reported deaths.

Mozambique: All visas to the country have been canceled, schools have been closed and gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned after the country confirmed its first case on Sunday. Latest figures: 1 infected, no reported deaths.

Kenya: All bars and restaurants will close from midnight Sunday. All international passenger flights will be suspended from Wednesday. Services at churches and mosques have been halted. Latest figures: 15 infected, no reported deaths.

Burkina Faso: US ambassador Andrew Young and Italian ambassador Andrea Romussi both announced they have tested positive for the virus. At least four Burkinabe cabinet ministers also tested positive for COVID-19. Latest figures: 75 infected, 4 deaths.

Nigeria: Africa's most populous country has stopped all incoming international flights. Just three weeks ago, it announced the first coronavirus case in sub-Saharan Africa. Latest figures: 27 infected, 0 deaths.

Somalia: The country's international airport has reopened for two days to allow its citizens to return from 14 countries affected by the coronavirus. Arriving passengers will be quarantined and provided with shelter, beds and food. Latest figures: 1 infected, no reported deaths.

Read more: Coronavirus: Rwanda imposes Africa's first lockdown

18:26 Austria is reporting that after a week and a half of tough social distancing measures, the number of confirmed infections rose by around 15% over the weekend, having dropped continuously from the peak rate of 40% before the lockdown. Austria aims to reach a one-digit rate in the next three weeks. Total figures from Austria are 3,244 infected, 9 deaths.

17:43 Chancellor Angela Merkel must now go into quarantine, her spokesman Steffen Seibert has announced. Immediately after announcing drastic, Germany-wide measures on limiting contact among the population, Merkel was informed that a doctor she had been in contact with on Friday had meanwhile tested positive for the coronavirus.

"Even from domestic quarantine, the Chancellor will continue her official business", Seibert said.

17:24 Here is the latest from across Asia:

Bangladesh: It has postponed its Higher Secondary Certificate exams until further notice. More than 14,000 people, recently returned from abroad, were put on home quarantine for 14 days. The government also ordered the closure of its borders with India to ban the entry of foreign nationals. Latest figures: 27 infected, 2 deaths.

India: Millions of people are confined to their homes as the country observed a one-day nationwide "self-imposed curfew." Latest figures: 376 infected, 7 deaths.

Australia: Most areas have shut down the majority of non-essential services. The country's state borders are being closed as "draconian" measures are introduced. In New South Wales, anyone breaching orders to self-isolate faces up to six months in jail. Police are asking people to inform them if anyone they know ignores orders and directions to reduce the spread of the virus. Latest figures:1,314 infected, 7 deaths.

Thailand: It has shuttered most public spaces, from shopping malls and beauty parlors to golf courses and swimming pools as the country reported its highest daily rise in cases. Latest figures: 599 infected, 1 death.

China: The city of Wuhan, the pandemic's ground zero, has announced it would be loosening a two-month lockdown by gradually resuming public transportation and allowing healthy people back to work. From Monday, all international flights due to arrive in Beijing will first land at another airport, where passengers will undergo virus screening. Latest figures: 81,397 infected, 3,265 deaths.

Vietnam: It has reported 12 new coronavirus cases on Sunday; the country's biggest reported daily increase so far. Latest figures: 113 infected, no deaths reported.

Singapore: Authorities will not allow any short-term visitors to transit or enter the city state, to contain the spread of the virus and conserve resources for citizens who are returning from other countries. Latest figures: 455 infected, 2 deaths.

Indonesia: It has converted the former 2018 Asian Games athlete's village in Jakarta into a hospital to treat COVID-19 patients, as cases continued to rise on Sunday. From Monday, all Jakarta entertainment outlets are ordered to close and public transport will run a reduced service. Latest figures: 514 infected, 48 deaths.

Malaysia: The country's 10th fatality is a 74-year-old man who was one of about 15,000 people attending an Islamic ceremony on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in late February. The event caused Malaysia's caseload to triple, according to the health ministry. Latest figures: 1,306 infected, 10 deaths.

16:43 German Chancellor Angela Merkel has addressed the nation and issued new regulations including a ban on meetings of more than two people. 

There are exceptions for families and for people who live together.

Further details: 

  • All restaurants, cafes and service providers such as hair-dressers where a 2-meter (6.5 feet) distance between people is not possible must also close
  • In public, people who don't live together must maintain a minimum distance of 1.50 meters between each other
  • Companies must observe hygiene regulations for employees
  • Traveling to work, helping others and individual exercise are all still allowed
  • The rules will initially apply for two weeks. 
  • Merkel warned that the new restrictions are rules, not recommendations. The police will make sure that they are adhered to.

"No-one wished for these restrictions," Merkel said. "I am convinced they will carry us through these difficult times."

The strict measures were agreed following a meeting between Merkel, German President Frank Walter-Steinmeier and the leaders of the 16 German states. 

Read more: What are Germany's new coronavirus social distancing rules?

16:30 United Arab Emirates' long-haul carrier Emirates has reversed its previous decision to suspend all passenger flights, saying it will suspend most passenger flights beginning Wednesday. The airline, which is backed by the government of Dubai, says it will maintain air cargo links to transport essential goods including medical supplies across the world.

Turkish Airlines will halt all international flights from Friday March 27, except those to Hong Kong, Moscow, Ethiopia, New York and Washington. 

15:59 German federal and state authorities will reportedly issued a contact ban, limiting interactions of more than two people. Families or those living in the same house will be exempt from the new order, DPA news agency reported. The new rules were decided at a meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of Germany's 16 states.

During the meeting, North Rhine-Westphalia leader Armin Laschet and CSU-leader Markus Söder reportedly clashed heavily, after Söder went ahead with a Bavaria-wide lockdown without consulting the federal government or other heads of state, reported Bild.

NRW's Laschet later addressed media, confirming the rules for NRW, saying they would be applied across all German states.

Laschet said there will fines of up to €25,000 ($27,000) for those breaking the rules, and not keeping the advised 2 meter distance between people.

The measures will be enforced by police and other law enforcement and remain in place until April 19. 

"The biggest consensus is a contact ban is necessary," said Laschet, speaking in Dusseldorf.

Saxony also intensified its measures. From Monday, leaving the house will only be permitted with a valid reason. Exercising outside or in a garden will also be permitted, as will journeys to work or to the supermarket.

15:20 Here is the latest from across Europe:

Austria: Zillertal Valley ski resort is asking all recent guests who attended its bars to watch out for symptoms. The winter sports destination is located in Tyrol province, an outbreak hot spot where tourists have reportedly exported the virus to Germany and Scandinavian countries. Latest figures: 3,021 infected, 8 deaths.

Belgium: A lockdown will continue for at least the next eight weeks. Non-essential travel abroad is prohibited, all gatherings are banned and police are patrolling the streets to monitor and enforce the restrictions. Latest figures: 3,401 infected, 75 deaths.

Cyprus: It has announced the death of a 70-year-old British man who had contracted the virus from another Briton while being treated at Paphos general hospital's ICU. The health ministry said the man had already suffered a number of underlying health impairments and his condition worsened after contracting the virus at the hospital. Latest figures: 84 infected, 1 death.

Czech Republic: There are plans to keep its borders closed to people entering and leaving for "many months." Exceptions will be made for those who live close to the borders and commute to work in Germany and Austria. Latest figures: 995 infected, no deaths.

Finland: It has softened its decision to close all schools from tomorrow. Pupils in the first three grades are now allowed to go to school if their parents have no alternative means of child care. Latest figures: 594 infected, 1 death.

France: The first doctor has died in France after being infected with COVID-19. The man, aged around 60, had been an emergency medic in one of the country's worst-hit regions, Oise, north of Paris. Latest figures: 14,485 infected, 562 deaths.

Greece: A wide-ranging curfew is set to begin tomorrow morning. People will be allowed to leave their homes only to visit a doctor or pharmacist, commute to work if they are not working from home or to buy food. Violators will be fined €150 euros ($160). Latest figures: 624 infected, 15 deaths.

Netherlands: The Dutch government has sent a text message residents urging them to stay at home as long as possible. "Protect yourself and others. Together we can beat corona," it read. Latest figures: 4,216 infected.

North Macedonia: The first coronavirus fatality is a 57-year-old woman who caught the infection during a trip to Italy. Her son has also been infected and is hospitalized in stable condition. Latest figures: 114 infected, no deaths.

Norway: It has launched a website allowing users to enter what symptoms they have, how long they have lasted, and whether they have a chronic illness. The information should help the health authorities get an overview of how many people might have contracted the virus. Latest figures: 2,216 infected, 7 deaths.

Romania: It has reported its first two deaths: a 67-year-old man with terminal cancer and a 74-year-old man who had been receiving dialysis treatment. The country will close its borders to foreigners Sunday night and curfews will be enforced. Latest figures: 367 infected, no deaths.

Spain: Confirmed infections in one of Europe's hardest-hit country have risen by more than 3,600. Spain has more than 28,000 infections and 1,720 deaths. The Spanish government says it will ask parliament to extend a state of emergency for another 15 days until April 11. Latest figures: 28,572 infected, 1,720 deaths.

Sweden: Prime Minister Stefan Lofven is expected to make a rare live television address to the nation this evening. The number of patients in intensive care has risen steeply in Stockholm over the past days. Several restaurants and clubs at Swedish ski resorts have closed down this weekend after hundreds of skiers celebrated, defying recommendations from health authorities not to get too close to others. Latest figures: 1,770 infected, 7 deaths.

Switzerland: It has recorded more than 900 new cases, bringing the total to over 7,000 and at least 60 deaths. The country's hardest-hit area is Ticion, on the Italian border. Latest figures: 7,104 infected, 80 deaths.

UK: British PM Boris Johnson has warned the outbreak is accelerating. "We are only a matter of weeks — two or three — behind Italy," he said two days after the UK closed its bars, pubs and restaurants. Latest figures: 5,071 infected, 234 deaths.

14:57 Italian President Sergio Mattarella has written to his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, saying he hopes that Germany and other countries can learn from "Italy's painful journey." Mattarella also thanked Germany for its solidarity and help with medical supplies. Italy is the worst-hit country in Europe, with its health system overwhelmed and its death-toll overtaking China's. 

14:42 As the German government decides on further restrictions, there have been mixed reports on the success of official recommendations to remain inside and avoid public gatherings. 

In Bavaria, where people are under almost total lockdown, police reported widespread cooperation with official recommendations. However, there were still "Corona parties" being held in the state, and a total of 160 instances of the quarantine orders being broken.

The western state of North Rhine-Westphalia banned meet-ups of more than two people after recommendations about group gatherings earlier in the week were ignored.

In Hesse, police reported a quiet night into Sunday with people largely heeding advice to remain inside.

14:31 Here's a summary of what we have reported so far today:

Iran: Tehran has refused US help after the country's supreme leader said the outbreak was probably man-made in America. Iran has confirmed over 1,500 coronavirus deaths and 20,610 people infected.

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel is considering a nationwide lockdown after four states imposed their own emergency measures to halt the spread. The states could give Berlin more emergency powers.

Spain: The death toll in Spain has jumped to 1,720, an increase of 394. The Madrid government is planning to extend the country's 15-day lockdown for another 2 weeks.

North Korea: Pyongyang says it has received a letter from US President Donald Trump offering help. The isolated country claims to have been untouched by the virus.

Italy: DW's Rome correspondent says 8% of infections are among health professionals. Russia has announced it is sending medical help to Italy after the country reported 793 new deaths and a total of 53,500 cases.

India: A 14-hour people's curfew is underway in the world's largest democracy, leaving millions of people struggling to reach home after railway stations were overwhelmed.

WHO: The global health agency has warned against relaxing lockdowns prematurely. It also noted a rising number of middle-aged people being struck down.

Football: Former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz has died from covonavirus. Several Italian, Spanish and English soccer players have tested positive.

China: Having mostly beaten the outbreak domestically, Beijing is now concerned about imported cases. All international passengers will now automatically be quarantined upon arrival.

For all your questions on the Coronavirus: Where did coronavirus come from? How long does it last on surfaces? Your questions answered

14:00 United Arab Emirates' long-haul carrier Emirates says it will suspend all passenger flights beginning Wednesday. The airline, which is backed by the government of Dubai, says it will maintain air cargo links to transport essential goods including medical supplies across the world.

German flag carrier Lufthansa has been forced to scrap most of its flights in the coming weeks after several countries banned travelers from Europe. The airline giant has warned the airline industry might not stay afloat without state aid if the pandemic persists.

Ryanair will be operating a "severely reduced schedule" from Wednesday. The Irish airline is offering free flight changes to customers wishing to travel at the earliest possible date.

American Airlines is giving its customers the option of canceling flights online now and then calling to rebook. It has waived change fees for certain travel dates.

Delta is allowing passengers who purchased a ticket in March to make unlimited adjustments to travel dates at no charge for an entire year from the date the ticket was bought. 

BA has waived its change fee for all bookings made between March 3 and May 31, with a departure date up to 31 December 2020.

13:55 German Chancellor Angela Merkel has begun talks with and state premiers on taking further social distancing measures. 

The main topic of the talks was the possibility of introducing nationwide exit restrictions. Some federal states, notably Bavaria, have already tightened their regulations. 

An announcement is expected to be made after 17:30 (4.30 p.m. UTC) following the telephone conference.

12:55 The Czech Republic will next week dispatch some 100,000 face masks and respirators to Italy.

The medical equipment was among hundreds of thousands of items seized on Tuesday after Czech authorities used emergency powers to raid a warehouse, taking 680,000 masks and 28,000 respirators.

The government was negotiating to acquire the equipment with a private company but suddenly the price increased, amid the panic brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The state then seized the goods.

Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek later said that 101,600 items of protective gear were sent by China's Red Cross to fellow Chinese nationals living in Italy and apologized for what had occurred.

Authorities are investigating how the protective gear ended up in a warehouse located in the northwestern town of Lovosice. Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said he would explain the situation to his Italian counterpart and the masks would be transported to Italy.

Read more: 'This is not a game ... Stay home,' Italian foreign minister warns the world

12:24 Finland has softened its stance slightly on closing all schools from Monday. The decision to close all schools was an initial cautionary measure to the global pandemic but now pupils in the first three grades will now be allowed to go to school if their parents are unable to look after them.

Education Minister Li Andersson wrote on Facebook: "If your child goes to day care or is 1st-3rd grade, you should only take him/her there if there is no other way."

12:01 Seema Gupta, a DW correspondent in Rome, reports that some 8% of known infections in Italy's massive outbreak are among health professionals. Watch here for more from Rome:

11:50 Following on from the 08:16 update, Romania has confirmed a second coronavirus-related death.

The first victim was a 67-year-old man who had also been suffering from advanced cancer, the government said. The man had recently returned from France.

Later on Sunday, a second victim was announced, a 74-year-old man who had been admitted to hospital in Bucharest and had been receiving dialysis treatment.

11:32 Cyprus' Health Ministry has announced the first novel coronavirus death and said there were 83 cases of infection in total on the Mediterranean island.

Several German tourists are among those infected, health officials said.

11:27 Organizers of apres-ski parties in Sweden have finally bowed to pressure and closed their doors due to the country's coronavirus outbreak.

Last weekend, hundreds of skiers and snowboarders defied social distancing measures and visited restaurants and clubs in several resorts, leading to public anger.

Although organizers said they kept the number of partygoers to 499 — not above the 500 limit set by the government — politicians and doctors called for the events to stop.

11:15 Spain's death toll from the coronavirus epidemic has jumped to 1,720, an increase of 394 on the previous day, according to media reports citing the latest health data.

The number of registered cases in the country has risen to 28,572, up 3,646 on yesterday's figure.

The news comes as Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and other government ministers are meeting in Madrid to discuss an extension to the current 15-day lockdown.

11:08 German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to hold a teleconference later on Sunday with the premiers of Germany's 16 states on whether to institute a nationwide lockdown.

The states of Bavaria, Saarland, Baden-Württemberg and Schleswig-Holstein have already declared strict measures, while others were waiting for evidence on Saturday of how existing social distancing measures are being adhered to.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has spoken out against a curfew in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

The states are also expected to agree on a draft law that would give the federal government additional powers if the emergency worsens.

Read more: Few violations as German states impose lockdowns

Berliners afraid of lockdown

11:04 Indian migrant workers trying to get home have been gathering at a railway station in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, defying a 14-hour "people's curfew" that Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases across the subcontinent.

Modi imposed Sunday's "Janata Curfew," whereby everyone across India except for those in essential services must adhere to a self-imposed quarantine from 7 a.m. (0130 GMT) to 9 p.m. (1530 GMT), as the number of confirmed cases rose to 324, according to health officials. Five people have died in the world's second-most populous country as a result of the virus.

10:35 A reminder that the World Health Organization provides free-of-charge information and resources worldwide via WhatsApp:

09:58 Iran has described the United States' offer to assist the Islamic Republic as "strange," as it battles the coronavirus pandemic.

The country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech: "Several times Americans have offered to help Iran to contain the virus ... You are accused of creating this virus. I do not know whether it is true, but it is strange that you want to help Iran."

Iran is the most-affected country in the Middle East with over 1,500 coronavirus deaths and 20,610 people infected.

"Aside from the fact that you have shortages in your fight against the virus, what if you give us a drug that will help the virus to remain in Iran permanently?" Khamenei added.

"Our number one enemy is America. It is the most wicked, sinister enemy of Iran ... its leaders are charlatans," Khamenei said.

Iranian authorities have blamed crippling US sanctions for hindering Tehran's efforts to combat the outbreak. The Trump administration has thus far refused to lift sanctions.

Read more: Iran faces catastrophic death toll from coronavirus

09:53 Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization (WHO), has warned countries of the dangers of lifting lockdowns prematurely, saying that doing so could then cause a rise in cases once more.

Ryan was speaking on the WHO's World Water Day, whereby the UN's health body reminds citizens of the need for good sanitation in order to prevent and contain outbreaks.

09:29 Indonesia has reported 64 new coronavirus cases and 10 new deaths, a health ministry official said. The country now has a total of 514 cases and 48 deaths.

08:51 The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) has threatened citizens with jail sentences of up to six months if they contravene isolation orders, police said.

The NSW police revealed they had power under the Public Health Act to enforce public health orders and charge offenders.

Read more: In a pandemic, community-centered care must take precedence 

08:16 The Czech Republic has announced it now has 1,047 reported cases of COVID-19. Romania has confirmed its first death from the disease.

07:45 A 39-year-old man has become the first confirmed infection of the new coronavirus in Eritrea. Thirty-nine African nations in total have thus now detected cases of COVID-19.

Read more: Fake news obstructs Africa's coronavirus response

07:41 Turkish Airlines said 85% of its passenger planes are not being used as a result of flight cancellations in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

07:15 The former Real Madrid president, Lorenzo Sanz, has died aged 76 due to COVID-19. He had initially decided to stay home when he was first diagnosed rather than add to the pressure of an already wilting Spanish health service due to the number of infections in the country. However, he was finally admitted to hospital on Tuesday after suffering from fever for eight days.

Sanz presided over the Spanish football club in the late 1990s when the giants lifted the European Cup in 1998 after a 32-year wait.

Jupp Heynckes Champions League Pokal 1998
Lorenzo Sanz (right), then-president of Real Madrid, and team coach Jupp Heynckes of Germany, hold the Champions League trophy in 1998Image: picture-alliance/dpa

06:30 On the order of President Vladimir Putin, the Russian military will begin sending medical help to Italy starting Sunday in order to help the country battle the overwhelming number of cases of COVID-19 there, Russia's Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Along with China and Iran, Italy has been a global center of the outbreak and has seen more infections than any other country. As of early Sunday Italy reported 53,378 confirmed infections, though experts have said the true number of cases is likely much higher.

Russia, on the other hand, has reported comparatively few confirmed infections, having announced just 306 cases as of Sunday.

Read more: Is Russia running a coronavirus disinformation campaign? 

Lighting of the Olympic flame in Tokyo
Though Friday's Olympic flame-lighting ceremony in Japan was not open to the public due to coronavirus prevention measures, spectators have flocked to see the flame over the weekendImage: AFP/A. Messinis

06:17 Tens of thousands of people flocked to a cauldron with the Olympic flame in northeastern Japan over the weekend despite concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

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

Read more: What happens if the Olympics are cancelled?

05:48 All international passengers arriving in Beijing will be redirected to 12 designated entry points located throughout China starting Monday, the country's Civil Aviation Administration said Sunday.

In recent days mainland China has experienced a rise in the number of coronavirus infections involving travelers arriving from abroad, even as zero locally transmitted cases were reported on Saturday for the third day in a row.

Read more: How has Taiwan kept its coronavirus infection rate so low?

04:56 Thailand reported 188 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday, taking the total number of cases to 599. The country has reported one death.

"Most of the new cases were found in Bangkok and were among young people who continue to have social activities, which can lead to more infections," said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the Public Health Ministry, while calling on citizens to stay at home as the government attempts to control the outbreak.

04:48 Spain has ramped up its efforts to contain the coronavirus epidemic, mobilizing health workers and setting up emergency field hospitals, as the country reported 24,926 confirmed cases and 1,326 deaths.

"We must prepare ourselves emotionally and psychologically for very hard days ahead," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a televised address, as the country mobilized close to 52,000 health workers, including retired doctors and nurses.

A health care worker at a yet-empty emergency field hospital in Madrid
Madrid prepared a field hospital for coronavirus patients in the capitalImage: Getty Images/Comunidad de Madrid

04:46 Close to 1 billion people worldwide were confined to their homes on Sunday, as the COVID-19 death toll crossed 13,000. Over 300,000 coronavirus cases have been reported worldwide.

Lockdowns have been enforced in 35 countries around the world, a day after Italy's death toll rose sharply to 4,800. Many governments have closed borders and passed emergency funds to ensure that businesses do not crumble under pressure.

Read more: What the next 18 months could look like, if leaders buy us time

04:32 Sri Lanka has detained nearly 300 people for breaking a curfew imposed by the country to control the coronavirus outbreak. 

Police said 291 people were detained for being on the streets after the curfew, which started on Friday and will be lifted Tuesday. The country has adopted a range of strict measures as the number of confirmed cases rises to 77.

04:14 Japan has confirmed two new COVID-19 cases at a medical center that had earlier reported 12 coronavirus infections. After two more nurses tested positive for the virus at the Oita Medical Center, the facility is being looked at as a suspected cluster.

Diagnostic tests are being conducted for close to 600 patients and staff members.

The country recorded 1,055 cases of domestically transmitted coronavirus on Sunday. This does not include the 712 cases for people who were aboard a cruise ship moored near Tokyo.

03:53 Ecuador reported 532 confirmed coronavirus cases and seven deaths, prompting the country's health and labor ministers to resign on Saturday. 

03:51 Colombia recorded its first coronavirus-related death on Saturday, the Health Ministry has confirmed. A 58-year-old man working as a taxi driver was the country's first coronavirus casualty.

Earlier this month the victim had two Italian tourists in his taxi. Two days later he began to show symptoms, the Health Ministry said, adding the man had hypertension and diabetes.

03:48 El Salvador's president, Nayib Bukele, imposed a 30-day curfew in the Central American country late Saturday. 

03:40 Singapore has restricted the entry of all short-term visitors starting the end of the day on Monday. No visitors will be allowed to transit or enter the city-state once the ban comes into motion.

Only work pass holders who are involved in the provision of essential services will be allowed to return or enter. The country has reported 432 coronavirus cases, almost 80% of which were imported.

03:26 The government of Hong Kong urged its citizens to practice social distancing amidt a rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the territory. Most of the 274 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the territory are either imported or those who have been in touch with people who have recently traveled.

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) asked citizens to "maintain an appropriate social distance with other people" and cut down on going out or engaging in social activities.

"In view of the proliferation of the disease and continuous increase in the number of cases reported around the world, members of the public are strongly urged to avoid all non-essential travel outside Hong Kong," a CHP spokesperson said in a statement.

02:25 Everyone traveling to Hawaii will be subject to a 14-day quarantine starting Thursday, the state's governor said on Saturday. The state currently has 48 confirmed coronavirus cases.

''We need to come together as a community to fight this virus,'' Governor David Ige said. ''This mandate is the first of its kind in the nation. We want this action to send the message to visitors and residents alike that we appreciate their love for Hawaii, but we are asking them to postpone their visit.''

USA: Kalalau Valley - Koke'e State Park - Kauai - Hawaii
As of Thursday, travelers arriving on Hawaii will face a two-week quarantine Image: Imago/Westend61

02:12 The Philippines reported 73 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of confirmed infections in the country to 380. The death toll stands at 25, with six more deaths reported by the Health Ministry. 

02:06 Amazon on Saturday announced a raise in overtime pay for employees working in the Internet company's warehouses. 

The raise comes as the online retail giant tries to meet the shopping demand from customers who are at home because of widespread lockdowns put in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus. 

The employees will get double pay — up from 1.5 times — after 40 hours of overtime for the period of time between March 15 and May 9. This is the second increase in pay for Amazon workers after the company increased the minimum hourly rate for associates to $17 from $15 early this week.

01:52 India has begun its 14-hour curfew to combat the spread of COVID-19. The curfew has been imposed from 7 a.m. (local time) until 9 p.m. Many modes of public transport were suspended, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged citizens to "stay indoors and stay healthy."

01:45 North Korea on Saturday said that it received a letter from US President Donald Trump, in which the president praised North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for his efforts "to defend his people" from coronavirus.

A senior official from the Trump administration confirmed to Reuters news agency that a letter had been sent. 

North Korea said the letter was indicative of "the special and very firm personal relations" shared by the leaders, adding that Trump had "expressed his intent to render cooperation in the anti-epidemic work."

This comes soon after North Korea launched two short-range missiles earlier on Saturday.

01:32 Mexico reported 251 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country on Saturday, up by 48 infections from the day earlier. The country has created a comic superhero to remind people to observe social distancing guidelines.

01:30 South Korea reported 98 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, increasing the total number of coronavirus infections in the country to 8,897. While there was a small bump in the numbers on Saturday, the overall downward trend continued in the country.

01:20 Walt Disney will delay the launch of its streaming service, Disney+, in France by two weeks. The decision was taken at the request of the French government.

Disney+ will be launched in other major European markets on March 24, but the quality of video offered will be degraded to "ensure the smooth functioning of the broadband infrastructure." The company plans to lower "overall bandwidth utilization by at least 25%" at the time of the launch.

01:05 Coronavirus tests for US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, have come back negative, the VP’s press secretary said on Twitter.

Both were tested for COVID-19 after a member of Pence's staff tested positive for the virus earlier this week. 

00:52 Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison may announce the second economic rescue package for the country on Saturday amid coronavirus fears. With a value of AUD 66 billion (€35 billion, $38.2 billion), this economic stimulus package is not expected to be the last.

"We want to help businesses keep going as best they can or to pause instead of falling apart," he told the Sun-Herald newspaper Sunday. "We want to ensure that when this crisis has passed Australia can bounce back. There is a lot of pain coming but we're going to cushion the blow as best we can."

The package is aimed at allowing small businesses to stay afloat, with 100,000 Australian dollars being transferred to such enterprises so that they can keep their staff and not pack up.

The PM also added that the country may also look at implementing draconian measures to ensure social distancing during this health crisis.

00:40 Mainland China reported 46 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, 45 of which were imported. Six deaths were reported.

China’s Hubei province, which has been the COVID-19 epicenter in China, reported no new cases of infection on Saturday. Five deaths were reported in the province.

00:22 The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first rapid coronavirus test on Saturday. The new test has a detection time of approximately 45 minutes.

Currently, getting results can take days, as the samples are sent to a centralized lab. As the US attempts to meet the increasing demand for testing, the new diagnostic test has been developed by Cepheid, a California-based molecular diagnostics company. 

It will be shipped to hospitals and emergency rooms starting next week, the company said in a statement.

Covid-19: US caught off guard?

00:12 Panama recorded two more coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday, bringing the total number of fatalities to three. The Central American country has 245 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

00:09 UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that it could take just two weeks for the country's National Health Service (NHS) to be "overwhelmed" by the COVID-19 pandemic, like the Italian health care system. The death toll in the UK hit 233 on Saturday after 53 people died after being infected.

"Unless we act together, unless we make the heroic and collective national effort to slow the spread — then it is all too likely that our own NHS will be similarly overwhelmed," he was reported saying in multiple Sunday newspapers, as he called on citizens to stay home as much as possible. 

"The Italians have a superb health care system. And yet their doctors and nurses have been completely overwhelmed by the demand," Johnson added.

00:07 The Gaza strip announced its first two cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. The Palestinian Health Ministry said both people had recently traveled from Pakistan and were currently in isolation at a medical facility in the southern city of Rafah.

This has raised new fears about the spread of the pandemic in the strip, where the health care system is trying to contain the threat of COVID-19 despite the Israeli-Egyptian blockade. 

00:05 After closing Sydney's Bondi Beach to tourists, 11 beaches south of Bondi were also closed on Sunday in line with Australia's social distancing decree. 

The country has banned gatherings of over 500 people and asked everyone to maintain a 1.5-meter distance from each other to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

People on  Sydney Bondi Beach  Menschenmengen
Bondi beach in Sydney was closed after people failed to follow social distancing rulesImage: AFP/P. Parks

00:02 Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Saturday ordered a nationwide closure of all non-essential factories and companies until April 3.

"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 as will postal and banking services, he stressed, adding that the country is living through "its gravest crisis since World War II."

"We are slowing down the country's production engine, but we are not stopping it," Conte said.

Italy reported close to 800 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday, taking the death toll to 4,825. The total number of infections rose by 4,800 to 53,578. 

00:00 Catch up on yesterday's coronavirus developments here: Italy suffers through highest daily death toll

see,jsi,mm/kl (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)