Coronavirus latest: Italy deaths surge past China | News | DW | 19.03.2020
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Coronavirus latest: Italy deaths surge past China

Deaths from the coronavirus across Spain have surged 30% in the past 24 hours. Italy plans to extend its nationwide lockdown, as India urges its nearly 1.4 billion people to stay inside. Follow DW for the latest.

Watch video 01:08

Lufthansa: Coronavirus endangers future of aviation

  • Cases in Germany have passed 15,000, with 44 people dead
  • The European Central Bank (ECB) is launching a €750 billion ($820 billion) emergency bond-buying scheme
  • Germany and the UK plan to mobilize military reserves to aid civil society
  • A new study indicates the mortality rate of infected people over 59 is five times higher than for younger adults
  • EU authorities have called on streaming services and users to use caution in order to not overload the internet 
  • Global cases of COVID-19 have gone past the 200,000 mark
  • Food suppliers in Europe have warned of potential shortages due to border closures

Read more: Merkel says coronavirus is Germany's greatest challenge since World War Two

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

22:28 US President Donald Trump has canceled an in-person meeting with leaders of G7 major industrialized nations, which was scheduled to take place at Camp David from June 10 to 12, the White House said.

Trump will instead hold a video conference with the leaders in April, May and June, according to the White House. He teleconferenced with the leaders earlier this week.

21:58 Armin Laschet, the state premier of Germany's most populous state, North-Rhine Westphalia, has warned that federal and state governments will take action if people do not practice social distancing.

"If self-commitment doesn't work, then we will make such decisions," Laschet, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats, told public broadcaster ARD.

22:11 Panama will suspend all international passenger flights from 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, President Laurentino Cortizo announced.

20:09 The United States Senate has presented a $1 trillion aid package to ease the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak on US households.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday revealed the proposed plan, which would give direct payments of $1,200 (€1,125) per person and $2,400 for couples, plus an additional $500 for each child. The aid would be phased down at income thresholds of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 per couple.

"We need to take bold and swift action as soon as possible,'' McConnell said while announcing the relief package on the Senate floor.

21:44 Niger reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19, authorities said. Sub-Saharan Africa has reported relatively few cases so far.

21:01 A player for Eintracht Frankfurt, a soccer club based in Germany's financial capital, has tested positive for COVID-19. The club said in a statement that the entire team and staff would be tested and had been placed in the "obligatory 14-day quarantine."

"It was probably only a question of time. But we will overcome this difficult situation," Eintracht Frankfurt's sporting director said as part of the club's statement. "It can affect everyone. And therefore, in this respect, to every person: everyone must take responsibility and stay home."

The club did not name the player in question. The unnamed player is the eighth in German's top two divisions to test positive for the virus.

21:16 Saudi Arabia said it will suspend Muslims from their five daily prayers and Friday prayers in the overflow area outside of mosques in Mecca and Medina. The mosques were already closed off on Tuesday.

"We are living through a difficult phase of the world’s history," Saudi King Salman said earlier on Thursday in his first address to the nation since the coronavirus outbreak reached the nation. "We are completely certain that this phase will end and pass, despite its harsh and bitter difficulties," he added.

20:59 Jordan's army seals roads leading to the capital, Amman, in a bid to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

20:47 People in Kosovo protested by banging pots and pans from their balconies after the coronavirus crisis laid bare the bickering among the country's rulers.

The dispute went public after President Hashim Thaci suggested declaring a state of emergency and Prime Minister Albin Kurti rejected the move. However, Interior Minister Aglm Vellu publicly supported the president's suggestion, openly disagreeing with the prime minister. He was then sacked from the cabinet. Kurti's government is now headed for a no-confidence amid the pandemic.

The tiny country reported its first case last Friday, and a total of 20 cases by Thursday. 

20:24 The US State Department urged US citizens abroad to come back immediately or brace for a long stay abroad.

"In countries where commercial departure options remain available, US citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period," the officials said.

20:03 Brazil on Thursday became the first South American country to close almost all its land borders, except for that with Uruguay.

The border closure will last 15 days, and comes after Brazilians launched "pots and pans" protests against President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the crisis on Wednesday, as reported below.

20:00 Real Madrid striker Luka Jovic admitted breaking strict isolation rules after flying home to Belgrade.

"When I arrived in Serbia, they gave me the test and it came out negative," he said online. "I am very sorry that some people have not done their job professionally and have not given me specific instructions on how I should behave during my isolation."

Despite testing negative, Jovic is still subject to self-isolation following President Aleksandar Vucic's declaration of a state of emergency on Sunday. One of the measures it entails is a 28-day quarantine for all Serbian citizens travelling home from European countries most affected by the virus, including Spain.

Serbia has imposed a curfew for all citizens and elderly people are banned from leaving their homes at any time. Those breaking the curfew could face between 100,000 and 1,000,000 dinars (€850 - €8,500, $908 - $9,080) or a prison term of up to three years.
Serbian authorities also have the option of persecuting those who cause "panic and disorder" and punish them with prison terms ranging from three months to five years, the head of Serbia's judges and prosecutors' association, Nenad Stefanovic, told the local Novosti newspaper.

19:51 The Cannes Film Festival has been postponed to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. The prestigious film festival was set to take place in May, and no new date has been decided

19:28 Israel became the latest country to order a curfew on Thursday, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued government orders to prevent people from leaving their houses.

"Under these orders, you, Israel’s citizens, are required to stay at home," Netanyahu said, announcing that the curfew will go into effect for a week.

"It is no longer a request, it is not a recommendation, it is an obligatory directive that will be enforced by authorities," he added.

Read more: Netanyahu's corruption trial postponed due to coronavirus pandemic

19:14 Serbia has closed its main international airport in Belgrade and is set to close its borders for everything but cargo traffic amid sweeping lockdown measures for private citizens. Previously, Serbian authorities introduced an overnight curfew for all residents and banned people aged 65 and up form leaving their homes.

The Balkan country currently has 103 confirmed coronavirus patients.

19:03 The Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded veterans, has been postponed due to the coronavirus.

"I'm really sorry we couldn't make this happen, " said the event's patron, the UK's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, in a video message posted on Twitter.

Harry, who with his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex recently stepped down from his role as a senior working royal, spearheaded the creation of the Olympics-style event in 2014.

18:45 Another 108 people were killed by the coronavirus in France, bringing the total death toll to 372, French health officials said on Thursday. The number of confirmed infections has also grown by 20% to almost 11,000.

18:13 Egypt has arrested and charged four activists who attempted to secure the release of prisoners as COVID-19 threatens to spread quickly through prisons.

The four women, among them a prominent novelist and professor, were charged with spreading false news and violating Egypt’s protest ban, the Associated Press reported.

"In normal circumstances, Egyptian prisoners are the center of diseases," Mona Seif, one of the activists, said in a video posted online before her arrest. "Can you imagine how bad things must be now in the midst of an epidemic?"

Cairo has severely underreported the number of positive cases in the country, researchers have told DW. Egypt had 210 confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, with 6 deaths.

Read more: Is Egypt suppressing the true outbreak figures?

17:58 The European Commission has set up a reporting mechanism to monitor the internet traffic situation in each EU member state to be able to respond to capacity issues.

The demand for internet capacity in European countries has increased considerably owing to social distancing and lockdown measures, which have left hundreds of millions using internet at home for work or leisure purposes.

The EU has called on streaming services, operators and users to ensure that networks do not get clogged. EU Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Thierry Breton has been in talks with the CEO of entertainment streaming service Netflix aimed at ensuring digital infrastructure will not be compromised.

17:40 UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he "may consider going further" with regulations to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Johnson has received criticism for not following the example of other European countries and shutting down bars, shops and restaurants, instead encouraging people to work from home and stay away from groups.

In his daily coronavirus briefing, he acknowledged that "compliance with the new regulations has been patchy," especially in London, and that the government may go further to enforce this.

17:17 The total number of confirmed cases in Italy rose to 41,035 on Thursday from 35,713 on Wednesday, Reuters news agency reported.

The death toll increased by 427 to 3,405, meaning Italy's death toll has now overtaken China's.

However, a total of 4,440 people in Italy have reportedly recovered from the virus so far. 

17:06 In his annual virtual briefing on Thursday NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged  that allies had "adapted some excercises, modified some exercises and cancelled some exercises" in response to the outbreak. This affects the "Defender Europe 20" exercises, which have been billed as NATO's biggest war games in Europe since the end of the Cold War. 

The US had announced on March 16 that it would halt the deployment of military personnel from the US to Europe to curb the spread of COVID-19. This meant  dramatically scaling back the "Defender Europe 20" exercises, which have been billed as NATO's biggest war games in Europe since the end of the Cold War. 

Editor's note: This section of the article has been edited to remove ambiguity about NATO's continued presence in Germany.

Other activities in and outside of Europe, such as the drawdown of US-led coalition troops from Afghanistan,will continue as planned.

"Together, we can tackle the COVID-19 crisis and emerge stronger," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.

16:47 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged countries to work together to fight the pandemic, warning against "nationalist protectionism." He said a global recession was a "near certainty."

"This is a moment that demands coordinated, decisive and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies," Guterres told reporters via video conference. "We are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply."

16:34 Dutch Medical Care Minister Bruno Bruins, who was in charge of fighting coronavirus, has resigned citing exhaustion.

On Wednesday, he fainted in parliament. "I suffered from faintness and exhaustion after intensive weeks," he wrote on Twitter.

The Netherlands has over 2,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

16:06 Three more Formula One races, including the one in Monaco, have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The outbreak had already delayed the season opening in Australia, originally set for last week, and the races in China, Bahrain and Vietnam. 

"Due to the ongoing and fluid nature of the COVID-19 situation globally, the FIA, Formula One and the three promoters have taken these decisions in order to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans, which remains our primary concern," a joint statement from F1 and the FIA (International Automobile Federation) read.  

With a total of seven races delayed, the season could start with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix June at the earliest.

15:47 A Berlin lawmaker announced a new plan to help homeless people as the coronavirus spreads through the German capital. Under the plan, new shelters would be organized to slow down transmission of the virus among the homeless.

"We need an aid package for homeless people too," Elke Breitenbach of the Left party told German press agency dpa on Thursday. She said the homeless were particularly at risk of spreading the disease as they are often moving from one location to another and are unable to quarantine themselves if they show symptoms.

15:48 Prince Albert II of Monaco has tested positive for COVID-19, but the monarch's health is "not a cause for concern," his aides said on Thursday.

The 62-year-old head of state "is continuing to work from the office in his private apartments," according to his staff.

15:39 A new study of the outbreak in Wuhan, China found that the new coronavirus has killed 1.4% of all infected. The research, led by Hong Kong-based epidemiologist Joseph Wu and published in Nature magazine on Thursday, found a significantly lower mortality rate than the one assumed by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO experts believe 3.4% of coronavirus patients will die due to the virus.

The study also found that the mortality rate attributed to the virus is over five times higher in people over 59 years of age than in those aged between 30 and 59.

15:30 Russian President Vladimir Putin praised China's response to the coronavirus outbreak in a phone call with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Thursday. The two leaders agreed to boost medical cooperation between the countries, according to the Kremlin.

15:15 India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said social distancing was key to tackling the outbreak and called on the elderly to stay at home. He then went farther, saying all those in non-essential services should stay in.

"I urge each citizen to abide by a 'citizen-curfew' — a curfew by the citizens, for the citizens," The Hindu Times quoted him as saying. "Starting March 22, from 7 am to 9 pm, everyone should stay at home, except for people in the essential services." He said the measure would be to test the country's ability to isolate its nearly 1.4 billion citizens. 

15:03 Health officials in England say 128 people have now lost their lives due to the coronavirus, raising the total death toll by 29.

14:46 The European Parliament is set to allow lawmakers to vote on bills per email, according to sources cited by the German news agency dpa.

EU deputies were set to convene in Brussels next week. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, lawmakers who are not in the Belgian capital would be asked to stay at home and vote remotely.

14:30 Truck manufacturers MAN and Scania are temporarily laying off some 29,000 workers and suspending production in plants across Europe due to the coronavirus.

Read more: Coronavirus compounds problems for German carmakers

14:18 Chinese police acted "inappropriately" towards Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang, who raised the alarm on the new outbreak, according to investigators from the central government. Li was reprimanded by the authorities in December for posting information about the epidemic on social media, before the government officially acknowledged the issue. The 34-year-old doctor was made to sign a pledge not to commit any more "law-breaking actions."

Li died of the new coronavirus in February, with his death prompting anti-government outrage on social media.

The investigators "suggest" that Wuhan authorities "supervise and rectify the matter" as well as posthumously revoke the disciplinary statement issued to Li, China's state broadcaster CCTV reported on Thursday.

14:10 Moscow officials said 98 coronavirus cases have so far been detected in the Russian capital.  This is nearly half of 199 cases registered nationwide, according to the latest data provided by Russian authorities.

Read more: Russia denies EU allegations over coronavirus disinformation campaign

13:53 German Health Minister Jens Spahn said he does not expect a return to normal life any time soon. "It’s more likely to take several months than several weeks," the health minister said. Even once restrictions are lifted, certain groups will still require extra protection measures, he added. 

It will only be clear in 10 to 14 days what effect recent restrictions to public life, like the closure of schools and kindergartens, have had on curbing the spread of the coronaviurs, he said. 

The government plans to reassess the coronavirus outbreak situation after Easter, Spahn said.

Read more: Germany shuts down borders, halts public life

13:47 All football games in England will stay suspended until at least April 30, according to a joint statement by The Football Association (FA), Premier League and English Football League (EFL).

"The progress of COVID-19 remains unclear and we can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority," they said.

The announcement comes after last week's decision to halt football games until at least April 2.

13:43 Bavarian officials report six more coronavirus deaths in the southern German state on Thursday. Seven deaths were reported in Bavaria on Wednesday.

13:37 Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have moved from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle as a "sensible precaution" amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to palace officials. The 93-year-old monarch and her 98-year-old husband regularly spend time in the medieval castle for several weeks around Easter holidays.

13:14 India is banning all international incoming flights from landing in the country for one week starting Sunday to stem the spread of COVID-19. 

"No scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft shall be allowed to land in India from March 22," the government said in a statement. 

India has already revoked visas from the majority of people trying to enter the country and started refusing entry even to Indian passport holders coming from the EU, UK, and Turkey.

Read more: Indian coronavirus cases are low, but so is testing rate

13:00 The European Commission said it would create an emergency stockpile of medical equipment and supplies, such as ventilators, reusable masks, vaccines and laboratory supplies, to help EU members facing shortages. 

The stockpile will be funded almost entirely with EU money, with a small fraction being covered with national resources of EU states.

"It should now be clear to everyone that we are all in this together," EU crisis commissioner Janez Lenarcic said.

12:30 Iran's Health Ministry confirmed that 1,284 people have died of COVID-19, with the total number of infections rising to 18,407.

"Based on our information, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus and some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour in Iran," Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur tweeted.

Hospital and funeral workers have been overwhelmed by the number of bodies they have to handle, Iranian state TV reported.

Read more: Iran faces catastrophic death toll from coronavirus

11:57 Associations representing EU farmers, food traders, and the European food and drink industry have asked the European Commission for cooperation and support as border closures disrupt the industry’s ability to provide Europe with food. 

"Given that the agri-food supply chain is highly integrated and operating across borders, any blocks of supply and workers will inevitably disrupt business. Our ability to provide food for all will depend on the preservation of the EU Single Market," a joint statement signed by the trade associations said. 

The statement calls for measures including financial support for farmers, food workers and companies, a contingency plan should the virus response result in a shortage of seasonal workers, and the preservation of the EU Single Market. 

Read more: Traffic chaos at German-Polish border a threat to local supply chains?

11:41 The number of COVID-19 cases in Spain has jumped to 17,147. There were 3,500 new cases reported in the past 24 hours.

Deaths surged 30%, with a total of 767 having died from the disease in the country, according to health ministry figures. 

Madrid remains the epicenter of Spain's epidemic, with 6,777 coronavirus cases and 498 deaths registered. Catalonia is the second hardest-hit area with 2,702 infections and 55 deaths.

Spanish defense chief Miguel Angel Villarroya has asked the public to have "discipline and a spirit of sacrifice" to confront the situation.

11:30 The UK and Germany will make their respective army reserves available to assist with the coronavirus outbreak. 

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the "invaluable skills" of the reservists were needed, adding the Bundeswehr was helping "to provide health care and, if necessary, to guarantee infrastructure and supplies, as well as to maintain security and order."

Read more: Germany's plans to mobilize military reservists

The UK Ministry of Defense said that an additional 10,000 military personnel will be readied and reserves will be on standby for a new "COVID Support Force."

11:05 The EU's chief Brexit negotiatior Michel Barnier has tested positive for coronavirus.

''I am doing well and in good spirits. I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team. For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together,'' Barnier wrote on Twitter.

11:00 The German government will help freelancers and self-employed solo entrepreneurs suffering under the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak, according to multiple reports.

A total of €40 billion ($43 billion) will reportedly be made available for these workers. The government plans to make the funds available quickly in the form of direct subsidies and loans.

Currently, there are up to 5 million self-employed solo entrepreneurs in Germany, who had not been included in the government's planned worker relief programs.

10:40 Switzerland and Norway have said they will act to counter the economic problems posed by the coronavirus outbreak. 

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) will intervene more strongly in the foreign currency market to slow the appreciation of the Swiss franc.  As jittery investors seek to buy up the low-risk currency, the franc is in danger of appreciating to a point where Swiss exports of goods and services could become uncompetitive. 

Switzerland should nonetheless expect a "marked decline" in economic activity in the first half of the year, the SNB said. 

Meanwhile, in Norway, the government has said it will reduce payroll taxes and make more money available to municipalities in the fight against the coronavirus. This follows an earlier fiscal package announced on Monday that provides emergency funding and increased unemployment benefits for people in Norway. 

10:20 Dozens of subway stations in London have been closed, as authorities try to curb the spread of coronavirus in the British capital, which is considered the epicenter of the outbreak in the UK. Transport for London (TfL) said it was reducing services but keeping the Underground open to enable "critical workers to make essential journeys".

"People should not be traveling, by any means, unless they really, really have to," London Mayor Sadiq Khan said.

09:55 Three prominent research institutes are predicting hard times ahead for the German economy. 

An index from the Ifo institute, which tracks business confidence in Germany, has plummeted to its lowest level since 2009, according to a preliminary survey. The index fell from 96.0 in February to 87.7 in March. 

"The German economy is speeding into recession," said Ifo Institute President Clemens Fuest. 

At the same time, Germany’s DIW Institute predicted that the coronavirus will massively impact the German economy over the next two quarters. Europe’s largest economy is expected to shrink 0.1% in 2020, the institute said. 

And the Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel) in northern Germany has revised down its economic forecast for the country: Germany can expect its gross domestic product to shrink between 4.5% and 9% in 2020 due to disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak, the institute has said. 

Read more: Coronavirus: Asian stock markets struggle

09:45 Egypt's government announced that cafes, malls, sporting clubs and nightclubs will be closed from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. local time (19:00 – 05:00 UTC) to stop the spread of coronavirus. Supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open. Egypt has registered 210 COVID-19 infections, including six deaths.

09:35 Germany has recorded 10,999 new COVID-19 cases, according to official data. The number of new infections rose by 2,801 in a single day. Twenty people have so far died from the virus.

North Rhine-Westphalia, the country's most populous state, remains the worst-hit area, with 3,033 COVID-19 cases, up 661 from a day ago.

09:20 Sri Lanka has postponed its parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for April 25, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the country's election commission confirmed.

The South Asian nation has banned incoming flights for two weeks and imposed a curfew to fight the spread of the disease. Some 50 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Sri Lanka.

09:10 The Netherlands has imposed a ban on non-EU citizens for 30 days, the government said. The changes will come into effect Thursday, starting at 6 p.m local time (17:00 UTC).

08:59 Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder said he is considering a state-wide curfew. "If large numbers of people do not voluntarily restrict themselves, then in the end, the only instrument left to react to this will be the Bavaria-wide curfew. This must be clear to everyone," Söder said.

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Bavaria has risen by 400 to 2282 within one day, according to Söder. Ten people have died from the virus so far.

08:39 Thailand recorded 60 new coronavirus cases in the biggest daily jump in the number of cases so far to take its total to 272, a health official has revealed.

08:23 Malaysia has reported 110 new cases, with the total number of infections increasing to 900. Most of the new infections were linked to a religious gathering at a mosque attended by 16,000 people, the health ministry said.

08:04 Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said that his country's lockdown must be extended beyond the current deadline of April 3.

"The measures we have taken... must be extended beyond their original deadline," Conte told Thursday's edition of the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

07:58 Russia has reported its first coronavirus-related death. The country has reported some 147 cases of COVID-19, according to official figures. President Vladimir Putin has said the coronavirus situation is "generally under control" in the country, and the government has promised to step up testing.

07:45 On Wednesday more than 10,000 German citizens returned to their homeland from Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) has confirmed.

A further 20,000 tourists from Egypt are set to come back to Germany by charter planes in the coming days.

07:42 A planned state visit to the UK by the emperor and empress of Japan in June has been postponed, Buckingham Palace has confirmed.

07:22 France stepped up efforts this week to combat the spread of the virus, threatening penalties for those contravening strict new measures regarding social activities and have made good on that promise.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has said that 70,000 controls have taken place and that more than 4,000 fines have been handed out since the country went into lockdown.

Read more: French President Macron says 'we are at war' as he orders lockdown

07:09 While Europe and the US continue their struggles against the pandemic, authorities in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the new coronavirus, have said that the city and its surrounding province have had no new cases to report.

Wuhan, in Hubei province, was where the outbreak first took hold and thousands once lay sick or dying in hurriedly constructed hospitals. But Chinese authorities said Thursday's toll of 34 new cases had all been imported from abroad.

"Today we have seen the dawn after so many days of hard effort," said Jiao Yahui, a senior inspector at the National Health Commission.

07:01 Germany's Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has revealed he has tested negative for coronavirus. He took the test as he has been suffering from a cold recently but announced the good news on Twitter.

06:39 German airline Lufthansa has said that the airline industry may not survive without state aid if the coronavirus pandemic continues for a lengthy period of time.

06:30 Inc has confirmed one of its associates had tested positive for COVID-19 at its Queens, New York delivery hub, and it will temporarily shut down the station while it is sanitized.

The multinational technology firm said it will send associates home with full pay.

05:57 Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will pardon 10,000 more prisoners in a bid to combat COVID-19, state TV has reported.

The report quoted judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili as saying that the 10,000 inmates will be granted amnesty under a decree ordered by top leader Khamenei on the occasion of the Iranian new year, called Nowruz.

Iran has already given temporary leave to 85,000 prisoners across the country as a way of preventing the spread of the deadly virus. Among those given temporary amnesty was Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British dual national imprisoned for trying to topple the government while traveling with her toddler daughter. She was initially detained on April 3 2016.

05:48 Pakistan President Imran Khan has expressed concern over whether his country has enough hospitals and medical workers to handle the pandemic. He said: "In case we get swamped by it, our health facilities will not be able to cope."

05:38 Australia is closing its borders from 9 p.m. (1000 GMT) on Friday to all visitors, except for citizens and permanent residents and their close family members, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said.

Morrison said the measures are being introduced because an "overwhelming proportion of cases" of coronavirus in Australia have come from abroad.

05:24 Mexico has reported its first death from COVID-19, the country's health ministry said in a statement, saying the deceased was a diabetic and first showed signs of having the deadly virus last week.

05:20 Further measures are emerging in New Zealand (following on from the 00:58 update) where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed the country is closing its borders to everyone except citizens and permanent residents.

04:18 The South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, is making $39 million available for small businesses and other fiscal stimulus. The loans will be for small businesses with less than 100 million won ($78,000, €71,600) in annual revenue.

03:45 The US Federal Reserve on Wednesday night rolled out its third emergency credit program in two days, announcing it would make loans to banks that offer as collateral assets purchased from money market mutual funds.

Read more: First German town imposes lockdown

03:11 Burkina Faso has reported its first death from the virus. The death of 62-year-old Vice President Rose-Marie Compaore is the first known fatality in sub-Saharan Africa. 

02:45 Citizens of Sau Paulo and Rio de Janeiro banged pots and pans to protest against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the country. Brazil this week reported its first fatality from COVID-19 and confirmed coronavirus cases more than doubled over the past three days to 291 on Tuesday, according to the Health Ministry. Several prominent members of government have tested positive for the virus.

02:30 The Tokyo 2020 Olympics head organizer Yoshiro Mori attended a meeting on March 10 that included the deputy head of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) who tested positive for coronavirus. There are increasing concerns that the Olympics will not be able to go ahead because it could put athletes at risk.

02:20 The number of new coronavirus infections in South Korea rose by 152 since the previous day, reported its Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

02:03 An international gathering of Muslims on Indonesia's Sulawei island has been canceled over concerns the event could spread the coronavirus. Thousands of Muslims who part of the Tablighi Jamaat missionary movement had already arrived ahead of the four-day event before it was called off.

01:57 The Philippines stock index slumped 12% as soon as trading resumed after a two-day pause amid coronavirus quarantine measures. The decline triggered the circuit breaker, a 15-minute trading suspension when the broader index drops at least 10% in one day.

Read more: Coronavirus confusion about safety of ibuprofen

01:50 Italy reported 476 deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours  — the highest single-day coronavirus death toll of any country.

01:44 Argentina is building 10 new hospitals to cope with an expected increase in coronavirus cases. Eight of the 10 clinics will be built in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Chaco, Cordoba and Santa Fe.

01:30 China's health ministry says the virus epicenter of Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province reported no new cases over the past 24 hours. The country detected a total of 34 new cases from people traveling to the country from abroad. A total of 8 deaths were reported, all in Wuhan

00:58 New Zealand advised its citizens not to travel overseas, raising its travel advice to the highest alert level.

"This is the first time the New Zealand government has advised New Zealanders against traveling anywhere overseas. That reflects the seriousness of the situation we are facing with COVID-19," said Foreign Minister Winston Peters in a statement.

00:50 The northern Hokkaido prefecture in Japan is ending its emergency special measures on Thursday that were enacted to counter the spread of coronavirus. The prefecture will begin a new phase from March 20 to wind down its response to the virus. Hokkaido reported a total of 154 infections on Wednesday out of a total of 907 infections reported for the whole of Japan.

00:45 Twitter has become the latest social media platform to take action against false coronavirus information. It will stop users from spreading misinformation about the novel coronavirus, said the company in a blog post on Wednesday.

00:35 French President Emmanual Macron said on Twitter that he fully supports the ECB's bond-buying scheme to support the euro.

He called for greater solidarity in the eurozone, saying: "Our people and our economies need it."

00:25 US President signed the coronavirus relief bill into law on Wednesday. The package, worth around $100 billion (€91 billion), allows for free testing and paid sick leave for many workers across the US.

00:10 The European Central Bank (ECB) has launched a €750 billion ($820 billion) "Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program" to buy up government and corporate bonds. This should enable countries to reduce borrowing and boost economic stimulus.

It has been launched to help support the euro as restrictive measures brought in to combat the COVID-19 outbreak have caused economic activity across Europe to slow dramatically.

Greece will be able to join in the program — it has been previously excluded from the ECB's previous bond-buying schemes owing to a low credit rating of its banks.

The decision came after the bank's 25-member governing council held emergency talks by phone late on Wednesday. The scheme will be temporary, but will last at least until the end of 2020.

President of the ECB Christine Lagarde tweeted after the announcement: "Extraordinary times require extraordinary action. There are no limits to our commitment to the euro. We are determined to use the full potential of our tools, within our mandate."

00:02 Catch up on yesterday's coronavirus developments here:  Germany shuts down borders, halts public life

kmm, jsi, jcg, kp, dj/kl (Reuters, dpa, AFP,AP)

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