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Coronavirus latest: Italy registers nearly 1,000 new deaths

March 27, 2020

The death toll was Italy's highest daily tally since the pandemic began. The country's president has urged Europe to find new ways to counter the threat posed by the outbreak. Follow DW for the latest.

Coronavirus patient
Image: picture-alliance/AP/LaPresse/C. Furlan

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT) 

This live updates article has now closed. Click here for the latest March 28 updates.

23:00 The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States rose past 100,000 on Friday, according to a tracker run by Johns Hopkins University. Over 1,500 people have died. The highest number of cases is in the state of New York, at over 44,000. Out of this, over 25,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported in New York City alone.

22:30 Here is a recap of what's happened so far on Friday:

Italy: Officials reported 969 COVID-19-related deaths in a single day, bringing the country's total to nearly 10,000. Italy currently has over 86,000 cases. These two totals bring the number of cases and fatalities in Italy above China. Health officials in Italy said the rate of infection is showing "signs of a slowdown" but the peak of the outbreak is still to come. 

Spain: The death toll rose to 4,858 after 769 people died in a 24-hour span. Spain has over 64,000 COVID-19 cases. 

Germany: The number of COVID-19 cases cracked the 50,000 mark, with over 340 people have died so far.

US: President Donald Trump signed off on a $2.2 trillion (€1.99 trillion) coronavirus relief bill, the biggest economic rescue package in US history. There are now more COVID-19 cases in the US than any other country with the current total at 97,000. Nearly half of these cases are in New York. 

UK: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19. "Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus," Johnson said, adding that he'll now work via video-conference.
Johnson said he is self-isolating, but will still lead the government's response to the outbreak. 

Global economy: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Friday that the global economy is "clearly in a recession" due to the pandemic. The global economy has experienced a "sudden stop," said IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva.

20:47 Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar ordered a lockdown starting midnight local time for everyone except for people working in healthcare, social care, and for essential employees. Varadkar said citizens should not travel outside a 2 kilometer (1.24 miles) radius of their homes for any reason and that public transport will be restricted to essential workers. All hospital visits are to be halted. The tougher measures will stay in force until at least April 12.

20:36 US President Donald Trump has signed off on the historic $2.2 trillion (€1.99 trillion) coronavirus relief bill, the biggest rescue package in  US history. The House of Representatives endorsed the measure earlier on Friday.

20:26 Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act to order carmaker General Motors to make ventilators. This is the first measure enacted by Trump under the Korean War-era law, which allows the president to mobilize the nation's industry at a time of crisis.It comes a day after Trump said he did not need to use the bill.

20:15 Pope Francis conducted an unprecedented prayer ceremony at an empty St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. The 83-year-old pontiff prayed, spoke and performed rites for an hour with the help of a single aide, as worshippers followed the service via livestream.  The religious leader praised the "ordinary people" fighting coronavirus, mentioning "doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others."

"Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm," the pope said, referring to a New Testament story that involves Jesus silencing a tempest. "We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other," he said.

19:48 Iran's military set up a 2,000-bed field hospital in Tehran on Friday, as the country's officials announced 144 new coronavirus deaths. The update puts the total death toll at almost 2,400, with 32,000 cases of infection.

19:26 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on citizens to adopt "voluntary quarantine" in order to avoid stricter state-imposed measures. Residents of Turkey should not leave their homes unless it is to go shopping for basic goods, he said.

Turkey is stopping all flights abroad and restricting traveling between Turkish cities, Erdogan announced. The duration of the new anti-coronavirus measures will depend on how closely citizens follow them, he said. The latest data shows 5,698 infections and 92 deaths in Turkey.

19:14 Russia's world-famous Bolshoi Theatre is streaming recordings of earlier shows after being ordered to close in order to curb the spread of the virus.

19:11 Greece needs "urgent" help from the EU to prepare a possible COVID-19 outbreak in migrant camps, junior migration minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos told EU interior ministers via teleconference on Friday. Such an outbreak "could have dramatic consequences," he said. "It is extremely important to act in a timely manner to avert such a possibility." Previously, the European Parliament and human rights activists warned that the country is hosting 42,000 asylum seekers in camps designed to hold no more than 6,000 people.

19:01 Zimbabwe will impose a three-week nationwide lockdown starting on Monday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said. 
Only health workers and state employees would be exempted, he added. Funerals should only be attended by a maximum of 50 people.

"Some of the measures will be drastic and are sure to upset the daily routines of our lives. Should it become necessary, security forces will be deployed to assist in the enforcement of these measures," he said in his Friday address.

18:53 Under new lockdown measures in Albania, only one family member will be allowed to go out and shop. This person would also need to seek permission via smartphone app starting Monday, officials said. The country has noted 186 coronavirus infections in the 18 days since the first case was reported. So far, eight people have died.

18:43 German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the coronavirus crisis with the US President Donald Trump in a phone call on Friday, according to her spokesman Steffen Seibert. The two leaders agreed to stay in close contact and use the possibilities for cooperation, he added.

18:38 Italian President Sergio Matarella urged Europe to react in new ways to the threat posed by the pandemic. "New initiatives are vital, overcoming old ways of thinking that are now out of touch with the reality of the dramatic conditions facing our continent," he said in a rare televised address on Friday. "I hope everyone fully understands, before it is too late, the seriousness of the threat faced by Europe. "Matarella's comments come a day after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte rejected a proposed pledge by other EU leaders to mitigate the impact of the virus. Conte said the suggested measures did not go far enough and said his colleagues should come up with a new solution within the next 10 days.

18:29 In France, the latest numbers put the death toll at 1,995, which is 299 more than the data announced earlier on Friday. The number of infections has now reached 32,964, according to a public health official.

18:13 Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc, pledged to donate over $800 million (€722 million) to boost the production of medical supplies, as well as in ad credits to health organizations and businesses. As a part of the initiative, the company is working with its partners to produce between two and three million face masks, said Alphabet's CEO Sundar Pichai.

18:07 Belgium has prolonged its nationwide lockdown to the end of the Easter holiday break. The move would keep schools, restaurants and most shops closed until at least April 18.

18:05 Four passengers aboard a cruise ship off South America have died after dozens on board showed flu-like symptoms. Several countries had refused to allow the ship, named Zaandam, to dock due to coronavirus fears. It is currently in Panama's territorial waters with some 1.800 passengers on board. "Holland America Line can confirm that four older guests have passed away on Zaandam," the Dutch-owned company said in a statement.

17:40 The US House of Representatives has approved a $2.2 trillion (€2 trillion) aid package after the bill was endorsed by the Senate. The measure marks the largest rescue package in US history and is aimed at helping companies and individuals cope with the impact of the pandemic. President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law later Friday.

17:35 Stuck in self-isolation? With humans being social creatures, life at the time of a pandemic is challenging. But among us are people who learned to live in isolation long before the coronavirus outbreak: astronauts. DW looks at what we can we learn from them?

Isolating like a pro

17:34 The UK has approved building two more temporary hospitals in addition to the one already being constructed in London. The new medical facilities will be located in Manchester and Birmingham, with "further such hospitals to follow," said the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens. The hospital in London is set to open its doors next week.

17:25 Another 252 people died of the coronavirus in the US during the previous 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 1,246, the country Center for Disease Control (CDC) said on Friday. The number of infections stood at 85,356 on Thursday, according to the latest CDC data. The Friday tally provided by the US-based Johns Hopkins University put the number of coronavirus cases at nearly 93,000.

17:12 A cat has been infected with COVID-19 in Belgium after its owner caught the virus, Belgian officials said on Friday. Doctor Emmanuel Andre, a government agency spokesman on the pandemic, described it as an isolated case. While the virus can sometimes be transmitted from humans to animals, "there is no reason to think that animals can be vectors of the epidemic in our society," he said.

Belgian food safety agency AFSCA said that the cat experienced "transitory respiratory and digestive" problems. "So far, there is no evidence that a domestic animal can transmit the virus to humans or other pets," the authority said in a statement.

17:01 The UN health agency has already shipped nearly 2 million items of protective gear to various countries and is preparing another shipment of a similar size, according to WHO chief Ghebreyesus. However, "much more is needed" and the problem can only be solved with international cooperation and solidarity, he added.

17:00 WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus decried the "chronic global shortage" of protective gear for health workers. This shortfall is "now one of the most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives," he added. "When health workers are at risk, we are all at risk," Ghebreyesus said in Geneva.

16:55 "We have recently seen an increase in scams, cyberattacks and impersonation using WHO, my name and COVID-19," said Ghebreyesus. He added he was "very grateful to those working in various national organizations providing critical cybersecurity intelligence to the WHO Cybersecurity team."

16:51 Over 100,000 people have already recovered from the coronavirus, said the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a daily briefing in Geneva. Ghebreyesus said over 20,000 COVID-19 patients have died since the outbreak started in China. "These are tragic numbers, but let's also remember that around the world, there are hundreds of thousands of survivors," he told reporters.

16:40 The death toll in Italy stands at 9,134 after 969 people died over the last 24 hours, the Civil Protection Agency said. The total number of confirmed cases rose to 86,498, taking Italy's total past that of China in terms of both cases and deaths.

16:35 EU citizens still stranded outside the bloc could be flown home using €75 million ($82 million) earmarked by the European Commission. It says more than 80 additional flights are planned, on top of national efforts.

16:31 France is "only at the beginning" of the virus wave, said Prime Minister Philippe, warning that the number of cases is expected to rise in the Paris region and northern France. So far, eastern regions of the country have borne the brunt of the outbreak.  Earlier on Friday, French officials reported 356 new coronavirus deaths during the previous 24 hours, putting the overall death toll at 1,696. The number does not include people who succumbed to the virus in their homes or at retirement homes.

16:20 Officials say New York state, with a population of over 19.5 million people — including the 8.6 million living in New York City — now has 44,635 coronavirus cases. The latest death toll is now 519, up from 385 on the previous day, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

16:08 France has extended its lockdown for at least two more weeks. The measures aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic will stay in effect until at least April 15, said French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

15:59 Over 80 countries have already requested emergency aid from the IMF, said the fund's chair Kristalina Georgieva. "We do know that their own reserves and domestic resources will not be sufficient," Georgieva said, adding that the fund is aiming to beef up its response "to do more, do it better, do it faster than ever before." Emerging markets around the world would need $2.5 trillion (€2.26 trillion) to mitigate the impact, Georgieva told reporters during an online press briefing in Washington, adding that the estimate was "on the lower end."

15:51 "It is clear that we have entered recession," said IMF head Kristalina Georgieva. Due to the pandemic, the global economy experienced a "sudden stop" and the fund is now looking for a practical approach to prevent indebted countries from "falling off the cliff."

15:39 Older residents of Prague, Warsaw and Budapest say scenes of frantic shoppers in western Europe bring with memories of Soviet rule. The mood is detached, rational, says a Polish opposition parliamentarian Piotr Adamowiz.

15:38 Canadian premier Justin Trudeau announces wage subsidies for small- and medium-sized businesses backdated to March 15 and access to one-year interest-free loans.

15:31 Belgium’s Samusocial association says it’s set up a crisis center in Brussels for homeless tested positive. Less begging is possible, access to food more fraught, because usual care has broken down over transmissible infection fears.

15:23 The ongoing pandemic will have a deep economic impact and recovery could be only expected in 2021, said IMF chief Georgieva. This target can only be reached if the virus is contained and liquidity problems are not allowed to turn into issues with solvency, which is the ability to pay debts.

15:17 The world has entered a recession which is as bad or worse than the global financial crisis of 2008, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Kristalina Georgieva has said.

15:10 Chinese President Xi Jinping offered Beijing's support to the US in fighting the coronavirus. During a phone call with his US counterpart Donald Trump, Xi reiterated that China has been open and transparent about the epidemic following accusations of secrecy from the US side.  Trump described the call as "very good" and said the US and China were "working closely together."

15:05 Following in the footsteps of several other Bundesliga clubs, Schalke and Stuttgart have announced that their players have agreed to waive a portion of their salary and bonuses to help support the club's 600 employees. Get more news from the world of sports here.

15:01 In Italy, the rate of infection is showing "signs of a slowdown" but the peak of the outbreak is still to come, according to the head of Italy's national health institute. "We haven't reached the peak and we haven't passed it," Silvio Brusaferro of the Superior Health Institute told reporters. Once the peak is passed, the descent will depend on the people's compliance with the lockdown rules, he added. Italy had recorded 8,215 coronavirus deaths by Friday, with 80,539 total infections.

14:41 Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic and his wife have donated €1 million ($1.1 million) to support Serbia's coronavirus response. Addressing reporters from his home in Spain's Marbella, Djokovic said the money would be used to buy respirators and other medical equipment. "Through my uncle Goran, who has a very influential network of people on the Chinese market, we have managed to reach the manufacturers and respirator factories directly," the athlete said. "My father and mother have a lot of friends in Europe, we have also found some respirators in Germany."

14:33 The German military is preparing a contingent of 15,000 soldiers for its pandemic response, according to Der Spiegel magazine. Some 5,500 will serve to provide "security" and "protection" and another 6,000 to provide "support for the populace." Additionally, 600 military police officers would be ready to regulate traffic, and 250 soldiers from the department in charge of nuclear, biological, and chemical defense will be in charge of disinfection.

14:26 The death toll in the UK jumped by 31% by Thursday afternoon, with authorities reporting 181 new deaths on Friday. The latest data also shows 14,579 people have tested positive for COVID-19.

14:18 Sweden has decided to ban gatherings of over 50 people in an apparent break with the nation's unusually relaxed coronavirus response. The ban, which is set to go into effect on Sunday, was made on a "recommendation this morning from the Public Health Agency," Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told reporters on Friday. Violators would face fines of a prison sentence of up to six months, he added. The leader also urged Swedes not to travel ahead of the upcoming Easter holiday in April. "If you don't need to travel, stay home, he said. "This is serious now." Sweden has 3,046 declared coronavirus cases with the death toll at 92 on Friday.

14:02 Thousands of health workers in Spain are infected with the coronavirus, and the Spanish government must do more to protect them, says human rights watchdog Amnesty International. The authorities "cannot make more excuses: It's their obligation to protect those who protect us and to do it before it is too late," the group said. Amnesty believes 9,444 medical workers have caught COVID-19, which would account for nearly 15% of Spain's 64,059 infections.

13:54 A Serbian man was sentenced to three years in jail for not following the country's strict isolation rules, according to Serbia's state broadcaster RTS. The trial was reportedly held via a video-conference. After a hesitant first response to the outbreak, the Balkan country has imposed a nationwide curfew for all residents between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m, with the exception of dog walkers between 8 and 9 p.m. Additionally, people aged 65 and over are banned from leaving their house at all times in urban areas. The age limit for rural areas is 70. The elderly are only allowed to go out to buy groceries early on Sunday morning.

13:46 After UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for coronavirus, the country's Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed he has also been infected and would be self-isolating until next Thursday. Hancock described his symptoms as mild and said he would be self-isolating at home. He also said he would be doing “everything I can to get our carers the support they need." 
"I'll be doing it from here, but with no less gusto," he said a video message posted on social media.

13:20 The Turkish town of Kendril and four nearby villages were placed under quarantine in the northeastern province of Rize, on the Black Sea coast, health officials said. Traffic to and from the sites has been banned. Authorities will seek to identify people showing symptoms of COVID-19 infection, such as coughing and fever, and organize health checks in their homes. Turkey has so far seen 3,629 coronavirus infections with 75 people losing their lives.

13:00 German researchers plan to regularly test over 100,000 people to see if they have overcome infection with COVID-19 to track its spread, an institute behind the plan confirmed on Friday. 

A spokesperson for Brunswick's Helmholtz Institute for Infectious Disease Research confirmed a report in news weekly Der Spiegel that large-scale testing for coronavirus antibodies could start in April if researchers are given the green light. 

12:26 Coronavirus infections in Italy haven't hit their peak, the head of the country's national health institute, Silvio Brusaferro, said on Friday. However, he said there were "signs of a slowdown" in the numbers of people becoming infected, suggesting the peak may not be far away, after which new cases will show a visible downward trend. 

Italy recorded over 6,150 new infections and 712 deaths in the last 24 hours. 

11:55 France on Friday reported its highest daily death toll from the coronavirus pandemic with 356 people succumbing to COVID-19 over the previous 24 hours.

The overall death toll is now 1,696, but that figure doesn't include those who died from the coronavirus at home or at retirement homes. 

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe warned things will be "difficult" in the coming days after more than 2,300 people were hospitalized in a single day. “We find ourselves in a crisis ... that will not improve any time soon," he added.

11:47 German Chancellor Angela Merkel is going to take a third coronavirus test on Monday, a government spokesperson said in Berlin on Friday. Merkel has tested negative for the virus during the first two tests. The German chancellor has gone into quarantine after receiving a vaccination from a doctor last week who was later tested positive for the virus. 

If the result of the third test also comes out to be negative, Merkel will likely end her quarantine in the coming days. 

11:29 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for coronavirus and is self-isolating, but will still lead the government's response to the outbreak.

"Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus," Johnson said, adding that he'll now work via video-conference.

A Downing Street spokesman said the 55-year-old experienced mild symptoms on Thursday — a day after he answered at the prime minister's weekly question-and-answer session in the chamber of the House of Commons.

11:06 The coronavirus-related death toll in Spain rose to 4,858 after 769 people died in the last 24 hours, a record one-day figure for fatalities, the government said on Friday. The figures, however, indicated that the rate of new infections could be slowing, registering a 14% increase compared to 18% a day earlier. 

The total number of people infected by the virus climbed to 64,059 from 56,188 on Thursday. 

Health care workers in Spain
Spaniards continue to show their appreciation for healthcare workers by applauding from the windows of their homes. Doctors and nurses will sometimes leave their wards for a few minutes to return the gestureImage: Getty Images/J. Reina

10:53 The new coronavirus hasn't spared even the indigenous Yukpa people in Colombia. A member of a group comprising 250 people has contracted the virus, reported newspaper El Tiempo, adding that local authorities in the border town of Cucuta have isolated the members of the nomadic tribe in a neighborhood. 

Marta Peralta, president of the indigenous party MAIS, criticized the authorities' action, saying that "the community has been put in isolation and is in a poor state of health."

ONIC, a national association for the indigenous people, has called on President Ivan Duque's government to ensure supplies of all essential goods to the group. "Things like food, protective equipment and clean drinking water are now needed to stop the spread of the virus," it said. "It is also important to educate those affected about precautionary measures."

The Yukpa people live on both sides of the Sierra de Perija mountain range, both in Colombia and Venezuela. According to estimates, they comprise about 15,000 people.

10:30 Many Germans stranded abroad due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions complain of growing hostility against white Europeans on the continent. They say travelers from Europe are viewed as carriers of the virus.

A German woman stuck in Cameroon's capital Yaounde told German public broadcaster WDR that it's not completely unjustified that Europeans are being blamed for the infections, given that the first confirmed cases in Yaounde were those of Europeans. But the situation has been made dire by the fact that most people, not all, are generally associating all Europeans with the virus, she added.

The woman noted that Germans stuck in Cameroon have received notification from German authorities that they will be repatriated in the coming days. "It will be quite a logistical challenge because there are currently more than 1,000 Germans in Cameroon who have to be repatriated," she said. "There are also 2,000 French people and a high number of other EU citizens who want to return because the situation is getting increasingly tense."

10:25 Germany's upper house, the Bundesrat, has approved a massive stimulus program to help the economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. The package includes €100 billion ($109.4 billion) for a fund that can take direct equity stakes in companies, and €100 billion in credit to public sector development bank KfW for loans to struggling businesses.

The program also contains measures to save jobs, support hospitals and ensure nobody becomes homeless as a result of the health emergency.

10:00 Iran on Friday announced 144 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing the official number of fatalities to 2,378 in one of the world's worst-hit countries. "In the past 24 hours, we've had 2,926 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections across the country," Health Ministry Spokesperson Kianoush Jahanpour said. "This brings the overall confirmed cases to at least 32,332," he added, noting that 11,133 of those hospitalized so far have recovered. 

The Iranian military, meanwhile, has set up a 2,000-bed hospital in an exhibition center in the capital Tehran to shore up the local healthcare system amid the health crisis, state TV reported. The hospital will begin receiving patients next week, authorities said. 

Read more: Psychologist Simon Wessely: 'Mass quarantine is not sustainable over a long period of time'

Iran Teheran | Coronavirus | Temperaturmessung
Tehran says the rising number of confirmed cases was due to Iranians increasingly "self-declaring" symptoms and undergoing testingImage: picture-alliance/Anadolu Agency/F. Bahrami

09:35 Hundreds of people stranded off the coast of Western Australia aboard the German cruise ship Artania will be evacuated and sent back to Germany, Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told Sky News on Friday.

Most of the 832 aboard the ship are Germans. Those who are sick will now be treated in Australia.

Australia refused the ship permission to dock and Western Australia state premier Mark McGowan had asked the vessel to depart the country's waters immediately.

The cruise company Phoenix Reisen said the stranded passengers will likely get a flight back to Germany on March 28 or 29.

The cruise ship Artania Getty Images/P. Kane)
The Artania has 500 crew members and 832 passengers on board, most of whom are GermansImage: Getty Images/P. Kane

09:30 Russia on Friday urged its citizens to refrain from traveling, with the exception of essential trips, asking people to stay at home in an effort to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the Interfax news agency cited Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin as saying.

The number of cases in Russia surpassed 1,000 on Friday, a third daily record rise in a row. PM Mishustin said tough measures were needed to tackle the problem, adding that more stringent changes in Moscow should be extended to other regions of the country.  

09:10 Germans are generally satisfied with their government’s coronavirus response, according to a YouGov poll. At 51%, just over half of the 2,000 Germans questioned said that they felt the government dealt "quite well" with coronavirus, up from 44% at the start of the month. However, the number who felt the response could have been better has also risen, although not significantly, from 38% to 40%.

Germany's first coronavirus case was announced on January 27. Since then, the country has confirmed more than 43,000 infections and more than 260 deaths.

Read more: Coronavirus vaccine: 'Clinical tests' in Germany soon

09:00 Here’s a summary of key global events from the last few hours:

United States: The US has overtaken China to become the country with the most coronavirus cases. By Thursday, the number of infections stood at over 85,000, compared with over 81,000 in China. The US has already seen more than 1,200 deaths.

The Senate has passed a $2.2 trillion economic relief package to help boost the economy. The package includes direct payouts to US citizens and a boost to unemployment benefits. The bill is set to be passed by the House of Representatives later on Friday. 

European Union: Despite a six-hour video conference, EU leaders still can't agree on fiscal measures to prop up the bloc’s economies. Italy, Spain and France want to issue joint debt but this was blocked by Germany and the Netherlands. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is thought to be in favor of a European Stability Mechanism bailout fund instead. 

The leaders will take two more weeks to try and reach an agreement.

Asia: Japan has no plans to declare a state of emergency over the country's coronavirus epidemic, despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying the outbreak was a "national crisis."

South Korean authorities have asked residents to stay inside and continue to avoid large gatherings. The country has managed to keep infection rates hovering at around 100 a day after a peak a few weeks ago.

China, Hong Kong and Japanese stocks closed sharply higher, while India's central bank slashed interest rates sharply to 4.4%. 

Africa: South Africa has reported its first two coronavirus deaths as infections in the country passed the 1,000 mark. The country is waking up on the first day of a three-week lockdown from Friday. 

South Africa joins other African countries including Kenya, Rwanda and Mali that have already imposed restrictions on social and economic life. 

G20 leaders, meanwhile, said they were concerned about the risks COVID-19 posed to countries with weaker health systems, notably in Africa.

Read more: What you need to know about the coronavirus

Germany's rural physicians improvise

08:40 The German government said on Friday that it will take at least another two weeks to repatriate all German citizens stuck abroad on account of worldwide travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many countries across the world have imposed lockdowns, closed their borders and suspended international travel.

Of the 200,000 German citizens affected by the travel curbs, Germany's Foreign Ministry said, 150,000 have been brought back to the country, but 50,000 still remain stranded in a number of locations. 

07:35 Cases of coronavirus in South Africa passed 1,000 on Friday, the country's Health Ministry said, while also reporting its first two deaths on the first day of a three-week, nationwide lockdown.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this week announced the lockdown, which saw Africa's most industrialized economy largely grind to a halt. 

"This morning, we South Africans wake up with sad news that we now have our first deaths resulting from COVID-19," the Health Ministry said in a statement, adding cases had risen to more than 1,000, from 927 on Thursday.

The 21-day lockdown came into force at midnight on Thursday, and largely confines people to their homes aside from specific purposes like buying food or for health emergencies.

Read more: Africa gears for COVID-19 pandemic's economic fallout

07:30 Hungary will impose restrictions on people leaving their homes between March 28 and April 11 to fight the spread of the new coronavirus, the country's Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday. The move is aimed at further reducing the number of social contacts, which has fallen to about 10% of its normal rate but needs to be even lower, the PM said. 

He also noted that the government will present an action plan sometime in the first or second week of April to reboot the economy after the health crisis. Orban said the economy will need a kick start but for now, it takes a back seat to saving the lives of as many people as possible. Hungary faces a long uptick of the epidemic, which is expected to peak in June or July, he said.

07:13 India's central bank slashed interest rates sharply on Friday as the coronavirus outbreak worsens the country's economic prospects, with manufacturing activity and consumption grinding to a halt after the government imposed an unprecedented 21-day nationwide lockdown. 

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said the benchmark repo rate — the level at which it lends to commercial banks — would be cut by 75 basis points to 4.4%. 

"This kind of uncertain outlook has never been seen before… finance is the lifeline of the economy and keeping it active is of paramount importance for the RBI," central bank governor Shaktikanta Das said in Mumbai. 

India needs conventional and unconventional measures to tackle the unprecedented situation depending on the spread, intensity and duration of the outbreak, he noted. India has so far recorded 745 cases among its over 1.3 billion people, but experts believe the number could rise exponentially in the weeks ahead. 

A migrant worker and her child
Migrant workers in India complain that they'll struggle to obtain food amid a 21-day nationwide lockdown Image: Reuters/R. De Chowdhuri

06:35 US President Donald Trump said on Friday he spoke with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and discussed "in great detail" the coronavirus pandemic.

"China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the virus," Trump wrote on Twitter. "We are working closely together."

China and the US should "unite to fight" the pandemic, Xi told Trump, according to Chinese state media.

The two countries have clashed in recent weeks over the virus, but Xi told Trump China "wishes to continue sharing all information and experience with the US," reported state broadcaster CCTV.

Read more: Coronavirus: German doctors lay down life-or-death guidelines

Week 2 of lockdown in Belgium

05:40 China and Hong Kong stocks rose on Friday as dismal industrial data boosted expectations of further stimulus to shield the world's second-biggest economy from the ill-effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The CSI300 index rose 1.6% and the Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.4%, while the Hang Seng index and the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index climbed 1.2% and 1.6% respectively. 

Also helping lift sentiment in China was the decision by the Group of 20 (G20) major economies to inject over $5 trillion (€4.5 trillion) into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the global health crisis. 

Japanese stocks also surged on Friday, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 index jumping 3.8% to 19,389.43, ending the week 17.1% higher. Analysts said the Japanese government's plans for a multibillion-dollar stimulus to counter the impact from the disease provided further relief to investors.  

US stock futures, however, extended their declines, dropping by more than 2%, ahead of the US House of Representatives vote on a massive $2.2 trillion (€2 trillion) economic stimulus package later today.

Read more: How Vietnam is winning its 'war' on coronavirus

05:26 German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she's missing personal contact with colleagues while working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Merkel, 65, has been in self-isolation since Sunday after coming into contact with a person who later tested positive for COVID-19.

The chancellor said she is "keeping very, very busy," during a press conference Thursday evening. She said she spends a lot of time in video conferences and telephone group chats. "I miss being able to attend cabinet meetings personally," Merkel said, adding that she missing not being able to see people in person. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
On Thursday, Merkel said Germany was opposed to the idea of "corona bonds" that would pool the debt of the 19 eurozone countries in response to the coronavirus crisisImage: AFP/M. Kappeler

04:12 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government told the Trump administration to not put troops at the US-Canada border amid the coronavirus pandemic, calling the proposal entirely unnecessary.
"Canada and the United States have the longest un-militarized border in the world and it is very much in both of our interests for it to remain that way," Trudeau said.

The Department of Homeland Security had made a request to the Pentagon about providing additional security along the northern border between entry points, according to the Wall Street Journal. But the paper reported that the Trump administration has since scrapped the plan.

Read more: Italian workers protest against open factories as COVID-19 spreads

03:18 Security forces in Argentina have detained more than 6,000 people who were violating new restrictions on personal movement.

The government has restricted movement to just errands to nearby grocery stores or pharmacies. Essential workers — doctors, nurses, police officers as well as supermarket, pharmacy and logistics workers — are exempt from the measures. The restrictions are in place until March 31.

Criminal charges have been filed against 6,191 suspects across the country, Argentina's presidential office said.

An Argentine man speaks to a police officer
Some 500 people in Argentina have been infected with the novel coronavirus and nine have diedImage: Reuters/M. Baglietto

02:43 South Korean authorities asked residents to stay inside and avoid large gatherings as daily new coronavirus cases hovered near 100 per day. South Korea reported 91 new coronavirus cases on Friday, bringing its total to 9,332.

The country has reported similar numbers in the past two weeks after experiencing a high of 900 in February.

The government has encouraged South Korean residents to practice social distancing and self-isolation, saying such measures were needed to stop the smaller, but still steady, stream of new cases.

Read more: Coronavirus: Demand for Filipino nurses increases in Europe

Coronavirus tests in South Korea

01:33 Japan said it does not feel the need to declare a "state of emergency" over the country's coronavirus epidemic, despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling the outbreak a "national crisis." Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that Japan is not in a situation where it needs to issue an emergency declaration. 

Japan has confirmed 1,387 cases of the coronavirus, with 47 deaths. Abe has set up a new crisis task force to combat the pandemic. Japan has already postponed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

01:09 Mexico has 585 coronavirus cases, according to a Health Ministry official, up from 475. The country saw two more deaths as a result of the virus, bringing its death toll total to eight.

The new figures come as the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua said it would set up a shelter for deported migrants for a two-week quarantine in "the next few days."

00:42 The US House of Representatives — the lower house of Congress — will debate a proposed coronavirus aid bill for two hours on Friday, officials said, in a bid to speed up the expected passage of the stimulus package.

The US Senate voted 96-0 on Wednesday on a $2.2 trillion aid package to combat the outbreak. The measure would give $1,200 directly to individuals as well as subsidies loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses facing extinction due to the economic effects of the virus.
US President Donald Trump said he would be eager to sign the package into law.

The Federal Reserve said on Thursday that the economy "may well be in a recession." The US government also reported a 3.3 million burst of weekly jobless claims.

Read more: Coronavirus: From bats to pangolins, how do viruses reach us?

00:16 French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Twitter that he and US President Donald Trump are preparing "a new strong initiative" in the coming days to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

00:02 Car production in the United Kingdom is expected to drop more than 15% due to the coronavirus crisis, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said. Full-year output was already expected to decline slightly to 1.27 million vehicles this year, but it could now fall to 1.06 million assuming the UK secures a zero-tariff deal with the EU, SMMT said. 

"The impact could be far more severe if the crisis, and therefore shutdowns, were to last for months instead of weeks," it said.

The auto industry is Britain's biggest exporter of goods and employs more than 800,000 people. Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan builds over half of the country's cars at factories in central and northern England.

00:00 EU leaders couldn't agree on fiscal measures to prop up Europe's economies after a six-hour video conference. Germany and the Netherlands blocked a call from Italy, Spain and France to issue joint debt to help finance recovery, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel instead proposing the utilization of the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund.

EU leaders ultimately decided to give themselves two more weeks to work out the dispute between ailing European members in the south and the fiscally conservative north.

sri, dv, dj/rt (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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