Coronavirus latest: Italy closes schools and universities as death toll surpasses 100 | News | DW | 04.03.2020
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Coronavirus latest: Italy closes schools and universities as death toll surpasses 100

From religion to sports, countries are taking drastic measures to curb COVID-19 as it continues to spread across the globe. Follow DW for all the latest developments.

  • The number of global cases currently stands at over 93,000, with more than 3,000 deaths
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that stocks of protective gear are "rapidly depleting"
  • Germany has 262 infections with most coming in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia

Read more: Will warmer weather stop the spread of the coronavirus?

All updates in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT).

23:55 We are now closing Wednesday's coronavirus live updates article. Thank you for reading. Please check for further updates on COVID-19.

22:34 The US Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley told Reuters that the US needs to give some "leeway" to China in implementing a long-awaited trade deal with the US due to COVID-19.

China has seen a downturn in their economy in the last few months since the first cases of coronavirus were reported.

21:03 Slovenia has reported its first case, the Health Ministry said. The patient had traveled to Slovenia from Morocco via Italy, national news agency STA reported.

20:47 Lawmakers in the US have reached agreement on a bill that devotes $8.3 billion (€7.5 billion) to help combat coronavirus. The money would be set aside for government-sponsored initiatives, such as expanding testing for the virus, and develop vaccines for the disease.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are expected to pass the bill by the end of the week.

20:09 The number of coronavirus cases in Germany has risen to 262, up 66 from the previous day's figure, according to the Robert Koch Institute. The western state of North Rhine-Westphalia is the region which has the most reported infections.

19:40 The death toll in Washington state now stands at 10 while California has announced its first fatality from the virus. The United States has reported well over 100 coronavirus cases in total.

19:34  Iraqi health authorities have declared the country's first two deaths from the new coronavirus, one in Baghdad and the other in the autonomous Kurdish region.

A 70-year-old Muslim cleric died in the northeastern city of Sulaimaniyah, a spokesman for the Kurdish region's health authority said. According to local sources, he had recently met with Iraqis returning from Iran. The Islamic Republic, which borders Iraq, has recorded the third highest number of deaths outside China.

The other deceased was in Baghdad and suffered from "immune deficiencies," according to Iraq's health ministry.

19:03 France has 285 confirmed cases, up 73 in the last 24 hours, according to the head of the public health service.

Jerome Salomon said that the death toll was still at four while 15 citizens were in intensive care.

18:12 The release of the James Bond film "No Time To Die'' has been postponed due to the coronavirus. MGM, Universal and producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said that the movie would be pushed back to November from its original release date in April.

18:07 French President Emmanuel Macron has had an "excellent" discussion with US President Donald Trump over how to deal with the outbreak. Macron tweeted: "To better deal with COVID-19, we are ready to coordinate our scientific, health and economic response within the framework of the US G7 Presidency."

17:39 Hungary's first cases have been confirmed. Prime Minister Viktor Orban said they were two Iranians studying in the country.

Orban said in a video on his Facebook page: "They have no symptoms yet but the fact of the infection has been confirmed."

17:20 Italy has formally announced the closure of all its universities and schools until March 15 due to the outbreak.

Classroom in Turin (Reuters/M. Pinca)

A cleaner sanitizes a classroom at the Piero Gobetti high school in Turin. All schools and universities in Italy are closed in Italy until March 15

17:12 Official figures in Italy show another rise. Twenty-eight people have died in the last 24 hours, meaning the death toll now stands at 107, the Civil Protection Agency said.

The total number of coronavirus cases increased more than 500 over the same period. More than 3,000 citizens have been infected.

17:04 The financial impact of the coronavirus is taking hold. A production slowdown in China, as a result of the new virus, is set to slash global exports by $50 billion (€45 billion) in the next few months, a report from the UN Conference on Trade, Investment and Development (UNCTAD) states.

The report said the EU, the US and Japan will be the regions to suffer the most from the export cuts.

16:46 Iran has canceled Friday prayers in all provincial capitals this week because of the outbreak, state television reported.

16:39 Here's what you need to know about being tested for COVID-19, and what testing may look like in the future: How does testing for the coronavirus work?

16:32 Tunisia is to suspend passenger ferry services to northern Italy as a way of preventing the spread of the disease, Health Minister Abdelatif el-Mekki said.

Tunisia confirmed its first case on Monday, a Tunisian national who had recently arrived from Italy by sea.

16:28 To keep abreast with how the virus is affecting the world of sport, click here.

16:21 The pet dog of a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong has become infected, in a probable case of human-to-animal transmission, Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said.

The dog's owner is a 60-year-old female with the virus.

15:30 Israel has insisted upon a 14 day quarantine on visitors from France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Switzerland due to the coronavirus, after imposing similar restrictions on Italy and several Asian states.

"We are at the peak of a global epidemic," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "We are in a better situation than other countries because... we have taken strict, very strict measures, to slow the spread of the virus," he added.

The Israeli leader also urged citizens to avoid shaking hands and suggested instead they adopt the Indian greeting of "namaste" instead.

14:56 Cologne's mayor, Henriette Reker, has been speaking to the press and confirmed 12 cases of the virus in the German city, all of which are in quarantine at their own homes. She also warned that this is just the beginning. "Further cases will come, we have to work on that assumption. ... We are watching these developments very closely so as to react promptly."

With regards to public events, the main focus of concern is on those that attract large numbers, and those which attract visitors from across the globe. "With today's stand, we see no reason to cancel all major gatherings, events as a matter of course."

"I wish all who have been infected a rapid recovery, and assure them that they will receive good medical attention." 

14:40 Two cases of the coronavirus are now being reported within the EU institutions. Some 32,000 people work for the EU and a second infection was uncovered at the Council following the earlier case at the Defence Agency being reported.

The majority of EU employees are based in Brussels and Luxembourg. Both of the coronavirus cases work in the Belgian city.

14:24 Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp has given a journalist short shrift when the German coach was asked about the coronavirus. "I don't understand that. I really don't understand it," the former Dortmund trainer quipped.

"If I asked you, you are in exactly the same role as I am. So it's not important what famous people say. We have to speak about things in the right manner, not people with no knowledge, like me. People with knowledge will talk about it and tell people to do this, do that. Not football managers, I don't understand that. Politics, coronavirus, why me? I wear a baseball cap and have a bad shave. My opinion on coronavirus is not important."

Klopp was asked the question at his post-match press conference after his Liverpool side lost 2-0 to Chelsea in the FA Cup. 

13:41 Italy's education minister says the government is still considering whether or not to close schools and universities.

"This decision will come in the coming hours, of course you will all be informed about it," Minister Lucia Azzolina told reporters, after news agencies reported a decision had been taken to shut schools and universities across the country for the next two weeks.

Read more: Germany's contingency plans for tackling a possible pandemic

12:58 Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended the Umrah pilgrimage to the cities of Mecca and Medina to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. An Interior Ministry statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency said the precautionary measure applied to citizens as well as foreign residents. The decision comes a week after the Gulf state banned people from traveling to Saudi Arabia to complete the pilgrimage.

12:42 Police in Indonesia say they have confiscated more than 500 boxes of face masks as part of a crackdown on the stockpiling of protective products. Confirmation of the country's first two coronavirus cases this week sparked panic-buying and sent prices for hand sanitizer and the sought-after masks soaring.

Officers said they found nearly 600,000 surgical masks during a raid at a warehouse west of Jakarta and were questioning the property's owners. Anyone convicted of hoarding masks could face up to five years in jail and steep fines, police said.

Watch video 01:40

Germany confronts coronavirus crisis

12:27 German Health Minister Jens Spahn has warned that the coronavirus outbreak has not yet reached its peak in Germany.

"The coronavirus outbreak in China has become a global pandemic," Sphan told German lawmakers. "The situation is changing very quickly."

The WHO has stopped short of labeling the outbreak a pandemic, a term that describes an epidemic that has spread across the world.

"What's clear is that we have not yet reached the peak of the outbreak," Spahn said.

12:18 Russian President Vladimir Putin says "provocative fake news" from abroad is to blame for any hysteria surrounding the coronavirus in Russia.

In comments carried by state news agency TASS, he said the virus is being contained, and "nothing critical is happening" in Russia.

He urged the government to make sure citizens were correctly informed about the situation, adding that reports in the media about the threat to Russia aimed to "sow panic among the population."

Watch video 05:25

Business with China in times of the coronavirus

12:02 The Louvre in Paris has reopened to the public. The world's most-visited museum had been closed since the weekend after staff voiced fears about the possible risk of COVID-19 infection.

To assuage their concerns, the museum management introduced new anti-virus measures, including increasing the distribution of hand sanitizing gels.

11:54 German police stopped an inter-city express train in the western city of Frankfurt Wednesday morning over concerns one of the passengers may be carrying the coronavirus. The train had around 300 people on board and was heading to Stuttgart when it was intercepted by emergency services at around 11 a.m. local time and cordoned off. Checks later confirmed a false alarm, allowing the train and implicated passenger to continue the journey.

11:17 An EU spokeswoman has confirmed to Agence France-Presse the first case of coronavirus in the bloc's Brussels offices.

"We have confirmation of the case," spokeswoman Dana Spinant said. The infection was initially reported by the Euractiv news site, which said a male official working at the European Defence Agency had tested positive for the illness after recently returning from Italy.

11:13 Austria's health minister says there are now 27 confirmed cases of coronavirus in his country, according to comments reported by the Reuters news agency. 

10:58 Iran has reported 15 new coronavirus deaths, bringing the toll in the Islamic Republic to 92. A Health Ministry spokesman said the number of confirmed infections had also increased by several hundred to 2,922.

10:56 Germany is banning the export of medical equipment such as masks, protective suits and gloves to make sure health workers have enough supplies to tackle domestic coronavirus cases. The Interior Ministry said exemptions would only be allowed under strict conditions, such as for "concerted international aid actions.''

The announcement comes after similar steps by other countries, including Russia and the Czech Republic. 

10:40 The London Book Fair has been called off following the escalation of COVID-19 in Europe, the organizers said. The event was due to take place from March 10-12. The cancellation comes after other, similar upcoming events, including the Leipzig Book Fair, the Bologna Children's Book Fair and the Salon du Livre in Paris were also shelved.

Watch video 01:11

Coronavirus: India curbs drug exports

10:31 In northern Germany, the organizers of the Hannover Messe, one of largest industry fairs in the world, say the event will be postponed from April to July 13-17. Around 6,000 exhibitors had been expected to take part.

The organizers said in a statement that they were "unable to implement the proposed measures" recommended by the Robert Koch Institute in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at major events.

Read more:  Closed, canceled, downsized: Coronavirus hits Chinese culture

10:08 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says almost all of the provinces in his country have been affected by the coronavirus, according to a statement on the official presidency website. Iran is among the hardest-hit nations, with 2,336 cases — including 23 members of parliament — and at least 77 deaths.  

"This disease is a widespread disease," Rouhani said. "It has reached almost all our provinces and in one sense it's a global disease."

He added that Iran would weather the outbreak with the minimum number of deaths and in the shortest possible period of time with the skills of its doctors and nurses.

Watch video 02:35

How worried are Germans about the coronavirus?

09:59 Foreign diplomats in North Korea who had been quarantined for the past month have finally been able to leave their compounds. Although the secretive state hasn't reported any cases of coronavirus, it ordered anyone showing symptoms, as well as many foreigners, to stay indoors for four weeks.

Read moreIs North Korea hiding a coronavirus outbreak?

Russia's embassy said on Facebook that diplomats and their families were allowed out from Tuesday to visit a number of approved locations, including shops, after obtaining certificates from doctors to prove they had not been infected. 

"I have never been happier standing on Kim Il Sung Square," Swedish Ambassador Joachim Bergstrom tweeted, along with a photo of himself standing in the plaza.

09:47 The European Central Bank says it is banning nonessential travel by employees and members of its executive board until April 20 as a precaution. The Frankfurt-based bank has also suspended visits to its headquarters and public visitor center, and canceled upcoming conferences that were due to be held at the bank. 

09:41 Supply chains for drugs are vulnerable in Germany, and that was true even before COVID-19 broke out. So will the coronavirus spread exacerbate drug shortages? Read more here.

09:26 The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has climbed to 240, up from 196, the latest data from the Robert Koch Institute shows. Fifteen of Germany's 16 states have recorded infections, with almost half the cases in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

09:18 Iraq has reported its first coronavirus death. According to the official Iraqi News Agency, the 70-year-old victim is a mosque cleric in Sulaimaniyah, a city in Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdistan region. Iraq has confirmed 31 cases so far — 20 of them Iraqis who had recently visited Iran, as well as an Iranian student who has since been sent home. 

An infographic showing ways to protect yourself and others from coronavirus

09:07 Facebook says it will provide free advertisements to the WHO as part of efforts to tackle the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus online.

In a post on the social media platform on Wednesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook was working with health ministries and organizations like the WHO "to help them get out timely, accurate information on the coronavirus. We're giving the WHO as many free ads as they need for their coronavirus response along with other in-kind support."

He also said the social network was "focused on stopping hoaxes and harmful misinformation," and would remove "false claims and conspiracy theories."

Watch video 01:56

How does testing for the coronavirus work?

08:53 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he won't be taking part in this year's Holi celebrations over coronavirus concerns. The annual festival of colors is set to begin on Monday.

"Experts across the world have advised to reduce mass gatherings to avoid the spread of Covid-19 Novel Coronavirus," Modi wrote on Twitter. "Hence, this year I have decided not to participate in any Holi Milan programme."

Home Minister Amit Shah said he also planned to avoid the celebrations, and appealed on Twitter for "everyone to avoid public gatherings and take a good care of yourself & your family."

08:28 India's health minister says the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country has jumped to 28, up from five. That figure includes 16 Italian tourists who tested positive for the virus. They are being treated in isolation wards. An Indian man who was driving the tourists around was also infected and placed in quarantine.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said authorities had also implemented additional measures: "We will now screen all international passengers. We will not limit our screenings to 12 countries as we did earlier," he told a news conference. 

Read more:  How long is the coronavirus incubation period?

08:17 France will begin regulating the price of antibacterial gels after a reported surge in prices since the coronavirus outbreak began, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told French BFM Business radio. A pharmacists' union had called for the government to intervene, saying the cost hike was unacceptable. There are 204 cases of the coronavirus in France, and four deaths. 

08:01 Kazakhstan's government says it has closed the country's Caspian Sea ports of Aktau and Kuryk to ships carrying passengers from Iran and Azerbaijan to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, according to the Reuters news agency.

A coronavirus infographic

07:55 So far, two countries in sub-Saharan Africa have officially been affected by the COVID-19 disease: Nigeria and Senegal. But the economic consequences of the outbreak are already being felt on the continent. Read more here.

07:41 Poland has reported its first case of coronavirus. The country's health minister, Lukasz Szumowski, said the infected man had recently been in Germany and was in a stable condition in the western Polish city of Zielona Gora. 

The minister added that all the people the patient came into contact with are in quarantine. Some 68 people are being observed in hospital, while around 500 are in quarantine at home.

07:37 Major supermarkets in Australia are enforcing strict limits on toilet paper purchases after coronavirus fears sparked a rush of panic buying. The country's biggest grocer, Woolworths, said it was allowing each customer to buy no more than four toilet paper packs each "to ensure more customers have access to the products."

It said hand sanitizers would also be restricted to two bottles per person.

The hashtag #toiletpaper was trending on social media as Australians reacted to the buying frenzy and empty supermarket shelves.

07:23 The government of majority-Muslim Tajikistan has asked its citizens to avoid going to mosques for Friday prayers as a precaution against the coronavirus spread, Reuters news agency reports. The Central Asian country of 9 million people has not reported any infections so far. Authorities there have shut the border to citizens of neighboring China and Afghanistan, as well as South Korea, Iran and Italy.

Read moreOpinion: Are we facing a coronavirus epidemic or pandemic?

07:14 Japan's top government spokesman says the country will go ahead with plans to host the Summer Olympics in July. Speculation has been mounting about the possibility the event could be postponed to later in the year over coronavirus concerns.

"We would steadily proceed with our preparations while closely coordinating with the IOC (the International Olympic Committee) and the organizing committee," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference. 

06:58 The outbreak is taking a heavy toll on tourism around the world. You can read more about the impact it's having here.

Watch video 02:06

IOC set to discuss coronavirus and Tokyo Olympics

06:33 Officials in South Korea say the number of people infected with the coronavirus there has risen to 5,328. Most cases are in and around Daegu. Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said 2,300 people were waiting to be admitted to hospitals and temporary medical facilities in the city. The government has announced a stimulus package of 11.7 trillion won ($9.8 billion) to ease the impact of the virus' spread.

06:13 In the US, the number of diagnoses has risen to 27, with nine deaths. All the cases are confined to Washington state.

06:10 The global death toll officially stands at 3,190. The virus has been confirmed in more than 80 countries. South Korea, the worst-hit country outside China, reported 516 new infections on Wednesday. In India, 16 Italians tested positive, according to state media.

06:00 Welcome to our rolling updates on another busy day regarding the global coronavirus outbreak. Here's an overview of some of the key developments so far on Wednesday:

  • Sixteen Italians have tested positive for the virus in India.
  • China reported another slowdown, with 119 new cases on Tuesday.
  • Japan now has over 1,000 confirmed cases, but the country is still preparing to host the Olympic Games in July.
  • Australia's major grocers have put strict limits on purchases of toilet paper after a rush of panic buying.

Read more: Catch up on Tuesday's developments here 

Watch video 01:54

850 new coronavirus cases in South Korea in one day

ed, nm, jsi/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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