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Coronavirus latest: More than 10,000 dead in Italy

The death toll in Italy has now exceeded 10,000, while Spain recorded its worst day yet. The Chinese city Wuhan — ground zero of the coronavirus pandemic — has partially reopened to outsiders. Follow DW for the latest.

  • The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus emerged, is slowly reopening after more than two months of lockdown
  • Spain sees its deadliest day yet with 832 fatalities
  • The United States now has nearly 105,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to a tracker by Johns Hopkins University
  • Germany says it doesn't expect to relax restrictions on public movement before April 20
  • Globally, more than 650,000 people have been infected and more than 30,000 people have died

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

This live updates article has now closed. Click here for the latest March 29 updates.

23:30 The coronavirus-stricken cruise ship, the MS Zaandam, has been given the green light to pass through Panama Canal after Panama's government previously denied access due to sanitary reasons. The ship will be allowed to pass through but no passengers will be allowed to disembark.

Four passengers on board the Holland America Line-owned ship have died on board in recent days while two others have tested positive for COVID-19. The cruise ship has over 1,200 passengers, 586 crew, and four doctors and four nurses — over 130 people on board have reported flu-like symptoms.

Holland America Line said that it plans on transferring healthy passengers stuck on board to another one of its ships in the coming days. 

20:20 Germany has brought back over 160,000 of its citizens from foreign countries in the massive repatriation effort triggered by the pandemic. Previously, the Foreign Ministry estimated that a total of 200,000 people would need to be transported back to Germany.

"We are going to continue," the country's top diplomat, Heiko Maas, pledged on Twitter. "Please be patient we we haven't been able to help you yet."

Last week, the government pledged to spend €50 million ($55.8 million) to repatriate German nationals in a deal with commercial airlines.

20:18 Epidemiologist and health economist Dr. Erik Feigl-Ding from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health has spoken to DW News about the new, rapid test for coronavirus that is now approved in the United States. The makers say the test can detect the coronavirus in about five minutes and plan to supply 50,000 kits a day starting April 1st.  

Asked by DW if the test was for real, Erik Feigl-Ding said: ''It's definitely real. And the technology has evolved a lot in the last few years to make this possible. I'm still waiting for us to see some of the accuracy measures because I think those too have to be peer reviewed and published. But any test right now is much better than the one we have right now — which takes almost a whole day turnaround and is only 30% to 50% accurate. So this test, and it is on a rapid scale, can immediately tell people you need to be quarantined or not. This would be infinitely better and faster in terms of helping us contain this virus than what we have now.''

He went on to criticize US President Donald Trump's handling of the pandemic. "This is the first time in which misinformation came from the top. It wasn't just a misinformation but actually costed tons of lives." 

Watch video 04:47

US approves new COVID-19 test - Epidemiologist Erik Feigl-Ding talks to DW

20:10 Here is the latest from across Europe

France: The next two weeks "will be harder than the two we have just lived through," French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said. "We are fighting a battle that will take time."  The French government  has ordered over 1 billion face masks, most of them from China. The military has started using helicopters to transport COVID-19 patients to Germany, in a bid to reduce pressure on France's overburdened health system. Latest figures: 38,099 infections, 2,314 deaths, 5,700 recovered. 

Portugal: Migrants who had applied for Portuguese residency will be treated as permanent residents until at least July 1 due to the coronavirus. The move would allow them access to the national health service, welfare benefits, bank accounts and other services. The migrants, including asylum seekers, would need to provide evidence that they are seeking to qualify for the resident status. "People should not be deprived of their rights to health and public service just because their application has not yet been processed," Claudia Veloso from the country's Interior Ministry told Reuters. Latest figures: 5,170 infections, 100 deaths, 43 recovered.

Italy: Europe will need a "great Marshal Plan" to reboot its economy after the coronavirus crisis, said Italy's Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri.  Separately, the country's Transport Ministry announced new restrictions for all foreigners entering Italy — they will be asked to state their reasons for travel, provide their telephone numbers and address, as well as their plans to reach their final destination. Airlines and shipping companies would be required to check passengers' temperature at check-in, and refuse service to those with body temperature above 37.5 degrees Celsius (99.5 Fahrenheit). All new arrivals will need to register with the local health authorities and go into quarantine for 14 days. Latest figures: 92,472 infections, 10,023 deaths, 12,384 recovered.

Russia: The Russian government has declared all of the nation's borders temporarily closed starting March 30th. However, Russian nationals living on the two rebel areas in eastern Ukraine would still be allowed to cross the border into Russia. The pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk view their territories as independent states and seek to join Russia. The new border closure will also not apply to diplomats and their staff, as well as Russian international truck drivers, or ship and train crews. Russian nationals will also be allowed to cross the border in the event of a close relative dying, and another exception would be made for residents of the Russian exclave Kaliningrad.  Latest figures: 1,266 infections, 4 deaths, 49 recovered.

Romania: Police cars in Romania will play the national anthem twice a day, at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., on the weekends during the state of emergency. The performance was ordered by the country's Interior Minister Marcel Vela, according to the Romanian media. Vela's move allegedly serves to express the government's gratitude that the citizens are complying with the limitation imposed by the officials. Latest figures: 1,452 infections, 30 deaths, 139 recovered.

Ireland: After Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar declared a nationwide lockdown on Friday, the country's Health Minister Simon Harris said that the new limitations would soon need to loosened. "The measures that we put in place last night were so significant that they cannot be kept in place for too long," he told the national broadcaster RTE on Saturday. "You cannot ask people to sustain this for a very long time." Some of the measures could be "tweaked" or removed by April 12, he added. At the same time, there was "absolutely" no chance of life going back to normal after that date, according to the health minister. Latest figures: 2,415 infections, 36 deaths, 5 recovered.

Turkey: All flights at Istanbul's second-largest airport, Sabiha Gokcen, will be suspended by midnight Saturday after a sharp decline in passenger numbers, the airport told the DPA news agency. Previously, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced all international flights to and from the country would be halted to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Turkish Airlines will continue to operate a small number of domestic routes. Latest figures: 7,402 infections, 108 deaths, 42 recovered.

19:34 Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has approved massive new measures to help people hit hard by the pandemic. Some €4.7 billion ($4.79 billion) is being made immediately available to mayors to help citizens while another €400 million has been set aside for "people who don't have the money to do their shopping." 

At the same time, Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri criticized the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, for her comments dismissing the need for issuance of common debt by European Union countries.

"The commission president's words were a mistake and I regret that she made them," he said, adding that Europe would need "a great Marshall Plan" to relaunch its economy.

18:51 The pandemic has spread to dozens of African countries, the World Health Organization has announced. According to WHO figures, more than 2,650 people are infected and 49 people have died in the continent.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the WHO stands ready to support all countries in the fight against the virus.

18:12 All non-essential workers in Spain have to stay at home for the next two weeks, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has announced. The employees forced to miss work will receive their normal salary, but will need to make up the lost hours some time in the future, he said. The measure will go into effect on Monday and last until April 9th.

18:11 The pandemic is reigniting tensions in the European Union which threaten the future of the bloc. Read more here: Coronavirus shakes foundations of the European Union

18:09 German police have broken up at least two protest rallies today, including one in Berlin with over 200 participants. Several protesters were arrested, Berlin police said on Twitter, without providing details on the event .Under the lockdown rules in Berlin, only rallies with 20 people or fewer could be approved by the authorities, and only if the infection risk is low. Separately, the officers in Hamburg broke up a rally in a favor of residency for refugees, with some 30 attendees.

17:20 More than 10,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Italy, with nearly 92,500 people infected, health officials have announced.

The death toll has risen by 889 in the past 24 hours to reach 10,023 as of Saturday afternoon. 

The country, with a population of 60 million people, already has more coronavirus cases and more deaths than China. 

The latest day-to-day rise is lower than on Friday, when 969 people died in the deadliest 24 hours since the epidemic started. Italian authorities said 3,856 people were in intensive care.

In Italy, the Catholic Church said it has offered up its properties for the anti-coronavirus efforts. The Church said it was providing over 500 beds for health workers and civil defense employees, and another 300 for people in quarantine or in recovery. Another 300 beds have been provided for the homeless, the Italian Episcopal Conference said on Saturday.

17:00 Health officials are saying the pandemic may be nearing its peak in Spain, after a record 832 people died from COVID-19 in 24 hours. More than 5,600 people have died in Spain, the second worst death toll in the world after Italy.

The rate of new infections, however, appears to be slowing. Some 8,000 new infections were recorded, bringing the total number to 72,248.

"The increase is slowing or stabilizing little-by-little," said Fernando Simon, the health ministry's emergencies coordinator. He said the crisis would probably peak by the end of next week. 

"We still have a big problem with the saturation of our intensive care units," Simon said. "The patients who are getting infected today are going to need a bed ... within seven to 10 days."

"We really need a sharper drop (in infections).. . so that we don't reach this capacity crisis" in the intensive care units. 

16:35 US President Donald Trump is considering quarantining the entirety of New York, the current epicenter of the pandemic in the US. Connecticut and New Jersey are also being considered for similar treatment, he said. He was equivocal on whether the US would reopen by Easter.

16:27 The medical director of the United Kingdom's NHS public health service says that if there are fewer than 20,000 deaths in the country then they will have done a good job.

Stephen Powis said intensive care units are not yet full in London and that the NHS is preparing operating theaters and recovery areas to take critically ill patients.He called for continued perseverance to help fight the pandemic. So far there have been more than 1,000 deaths in the UK, with 260 of those in the 24 hours leading up to 5 p.m. GMT. 

14:43 Russia is temporarily closing its borders from Monday. Traffic through road, railway, pedestrian, river and mixed checkpoints on the border of the Russian Federation, as well as through the land section of the Russian-Belarusian state border will be restricted, says the order signed by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

Diplomats, as well as people carrying out various activities necessary to goods transport will be exempt, as well as Russian living in the annexed Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine. Anyone crossing the border will be subject to "sanitary-quarantine" controls.

It is not known how long the measures will be enforced for. Russia currently has 1,264 cases of COVID-19.

Watch video 02:37

Coronavirus: Foreigners stranded in Russian airports

14:18 The six COVID-16 patients being flown from northern Italy for treatment in Germany have arrived in Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia. From here, they will be transported to clinics in the city as well as in nearby Bonn and Bochum. The German Luftwaffe said on Twitter it is planning to carry out further flights in the coming days together with the German military medical corps. 

The armed forces have both an A310 and an A400M ready for medical evacuations.

"In times of great need it goes without saying that we stand by our friends," said Defense Minister Annegrt Kramp-Karrenbauer. "It's an important sign of solidarity. Europe must stand together," she added.

13:26 India is planning to convert train coaches into isolation wards for COVID-19 patients. One state-owned Indian Railways train coach has already been turned into a prototype quarantine facility with the capacity to treat nine patients. "Railways will offer clean, sanitized and hygienic surroundings for the patients to comfortably recover," tweeted railways minister Piyush Goyal.

13:23 Germany's Justice Minister, Christine Lambrecht, has criticized big companies for saying they would halt rental payments. If financially strong businesses just stop paying their rent then that's indecent and not acceptable, said Lambrecht. "The federal Coronavirus laws offer no grounds for this. It still stands that renters must pay rent."

If they encounter serious difficulties as a consequence of the crisis then there is only a moratorium on evictions for a certain time period. Adidas, H&M and Deichmann on Friday revealed plans by major German retail chains to suspend rental payments after some of their stores were forced to shut to comply with coronavirus measures.

12:30 At least 46 people on-board the German cruise ship Artania have tested positive for the coronavirus. The vessel is currently moored in Fremantle, south of Perth, in Western Australia after being stranded at sea in a stand-off with Australian authorities.

The Artania "had hit a crisis point" and the situation was "urgent" said Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan.

Earlier, officials ordered the ship to leave Australian waters.

Aboard another cruise ship, the Zaandam, four passengers have died and a further two have tested positive. The ship is anchored off the coast of Panama.

Holland America Line said in a post on its Facebook page that more than 130 people aboard had reported flu-like symptoms.

Panama's health ministry has not given permission for the ship to pass through the ship canal, said Ricaurte Vasquez, the Canal Authority's administrator.

Read more: Coronavirus: Countries scramble to retrieve tourists stranded in Asia

12:20 Poland said Saturday it would allow people over 60, in quarantine or self-isolation to vote in the May 10 presidential election via postal ballot.

Anger is raging over plans to hold the vote despite the worsening COVID-19 pandemic. An opinion poll showed that 72% of Poles questioned wanted the ballot postponed.

Dominated by the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS), parliament adopted the changes to the electoral law in a pre-dawn vote.

Read more: Coronavirus threatens Poland's remarkable growth story

12:15 Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo has promised an unprecedented package of steps to cushion the world's third-biggest economy from the pandemic.

Abe said the "huge, powerful" measures will include fiscal stimulus, monetary steps and tax breaks for companies, though the details have not been finalized.

"We are in a critical stage. We need to be ready for a long-term battle," Abe said in a nationally televised news conference, adding: "I want to be straightforward about that."

Infections in Japan have climbed to more than 1,500, with 52 deaths, excluding those from a cruise ship quarantined last month, according to public broadcaster NHK.

12:00 The world's biggest producer of condoms has warned of a likely shortage after a coronavirus lockdown forced it to halt production. 

Malaysia's Karex Bhd makes one in every five condoms globally but has not produced a single contraceptive from its three Malaysian factories for more than a week after the government imposed tight restrictions on public life.

The business has received special permission to restart production on Friday, but with only 50% of its workforce, reported Reuters.

The latest figures show 2,161 COVID-19 cases and 26 deaths in the Southeast Asian country. The lockdown is due to remain in place at least until April 14.

11:29 On Saturday morning, a German military airbus collected six COVID-19 patients from Bergamo, in hard-hit northern Italy, where health services are overstretched. The patients will be flown to Cologne airport and then taken to different hospitals for treatment, the German Luftwaffe shared on Twitter.

A further four patients are being transported from France. Public broadcaster FranceInfo reported that the first two patients had been boarded on a Caiman helicopter in the eastern city of Metz.

Other German states have also offered to take in severely ill patients, including in Bavaria and Saxony. Baden-Württemberg and Saarland said they will offer intensive care bed places to patients from neighboring France.

11:05 Albanians will need a permit to leave the house to get necessities as part of stricter measures to contain the outbreak there.

Permission can be obtained by app or text message, which will allow one family member to go out.

The draconian measure includes a 40-hour curfew —  no movement or business activity is allowed from Saturday at 1 p.m. local time (1200 UTC) to Monday at 5 a.m. Police and military forces will patrol the streets to enforce the rule.

Albania has reported 186 cases of the new coronavirus with 10 deaths.

Read more: Coronavirus in the Balkans: Can disasters defeat hatred?

10:50 Spain has reported the highest daily rise in fatalities with 832 new deaths compared to a day earlier, the health ministry reported. The country's death toll is now 5689, the second-highest after Italy. The total number of infected rose to 72,248 from 64,059. 

10:45 Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus outbreak first emerged, is beginning to relax measures after two months of strict lockdown. Metro services have begun running and high-speed train services into the capital have resumed.

Many controls still remain in place with the vast majority of shops still shut and roadblocks in place. Wuhan will not let people leave the city until April 8, when the airport is also set to re-open to internal flights.

Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province where there have been 3,177 recorded deaths from COVID-19. China has confirmed 54 infections in arrivals from abroad over the past 24 hours, but no new internally transmitted cases. However, there is growing skepticism around Beijing's claim to have beaten the virus.

Meanwhile, a medical team sent by China has arrived in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital city. The team also brought in-demand medical supplies including 10,000 N95 masks, 100,000 surgical masks and 10,000 testing kits, reported Chinese state media.

Watch video 02:01

Coronavirus epicenter Wuhan slowly emerges from lockdown

10:35 South African police fired rubber bullets towards hundreds of shoppers queueing outside a supermarket in Johannesburg, an AFP photographer said.

Between 200 and 300 people gathered outside the popular store in a crime-prone area in Johannesburg. But as they scrambled to secure their spots, many did not observe the recommended safe distance between them.

Police arrived in 10 patrol vehicles and started firing rubber bullets towards the shoppers and later used whips to get the shoppers to observe social distancing rules.

South Africa is under a 21-day lockdown and recorded its first death from the virus on Friday.

Watch video 01:24

South Africa prepares for 21-day lockdown

10:25 The number of coronavirus deaths in Germany has reached 395, and the number of confirmed infections is over 53,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Germany's Robert Koch Institute, which sometimes has a slight time lag in updating its data, puts the death toll in the country at 325, up 55 in a day.

In her weekly podcast, Chancellor Angela Merkel thanked Germans for the sacrifices they are making during the nationwide lockdown.

"When I see today how almost everyone has completely changed their behavior, how the vast majority of you really do avoid any unnecessary contact, precisely because it can also contain a risk of infection, then I would simply like to say: thank you,
thank you from the bottom of my heart."

"I must ask you to be patient. Unfortunately, the daily numbers of new infections still give us no reason to relax the rules", Merkel said, adding that she was still in quarantine at home.

The number of new infections was currently doubling roughly every 5.5 days, she added.

Read more: Coronavirus: Treating European patients in Germany

10:00 Here's a summary of key global events from the past few hours:

China: The country began easing restrictions in the city of Wuhan, where the outbreak started. Travel by train into the city is now permitted, but travelers seeking to leave will still have to wait until April 8. No domestically transmitted cases of the virus were recorded on Friday, but there were 54 imported cases.

Watch video 03:09

Correspondent Fabian Kretschmer in Beijing as China eases coronavirus travel restrictions in Wuhan.

United States: President Donald Trump signed a $2.2 trillion (€1.97 trillion) economic relief package that had been passed by Congress earlier, enacting it into law. The deal includes measures to free up funds for health care resources and provide relief for struggling businesses and individuals.

Trump also used the Defense Production Act to force General Motors to make desperately needed ventilators. Although he had previously said production should be left up to private businesses, the president backtracked under heavy pressure from states and medical officials scrambling to treat critically ill patients.

The nation now has the most coronavirus infections worldwide, and cases continue to skyrocket. As of Saturday morning, it had registered over 104,000 infections, with 1,711 deaths. New York City remains the hardest-hit area of the country.

Iran: The death toll in the country is the highest in the Middle East at 2,378 with another 144 deaths announced on Friday. Its government finished setting up a 2,000 field bed hospital in the capital that will start taking patients from next week, but widespread distrust over the government's handling of the crisis remains.

Hundreds have died and thousands were taken ill after people drank poisonous methanol alcohol after claims it could cure the virus circulated on social media.

Elsewhere: Japan's capital Tokyo stepped up containment measures on Saturday, advising the public to remain home following a sudden spike in cases. Russians have been given a week's paid leave and restaurants across the country have been ordered to close. On Friday night, Ireland announced its own nationwide lockdown until April 12.

Worldwide: The latest figures show coronavirus infections worldwide reached over 600,000. On Friday, International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva said: "It is clear that we have entered a recession" after the virus forced businesses and trade to halt or slow down and billions of people remained at home, across the world.

Watch video 02:02

US passes $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package

09:42 Ireland's health minister, Simon Harris, said Saturday that he hopes the country would be able to end a national lockdown in two weeks' time if it proved effective in slowing down the rate of hospital admissions. However, he dismissed lifting restrictive measures entirely.

"Will we be in a position on April 12 where life in Ireland can return to normal? Absolutely not. Let's be honest with each other, these are measures that we are going to need to continue to work at," he told national broadcaster RTE.

Ireland entered a national lockdown at midnight Saturday, requiring everyone but non-essential workers to remain home. People are allowed outside for medical appointments and grocery shopping, as well as for farming, exercise close to home and essential family visits.

Ireland currently has 2,121 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 22 deaths.

Read more: Germany won't lift coronavirus restrictions before April 20: Chancellory

09:29 The neighboring Asian nations of Malaysia and Indonesia reported an uptick in coronavirus infection cases on Saturday.

Malaysia reported 159 new cases of infections, bringing its total to 2,320, Reuters said. There have so far been 26 reported deaths.

Indonesian health officials reported 109 new cases, for a total of 1,555 infections, with 87 total deaths.

The Philippines reported 14 new deaths and 272 new cases, marking the country's single largest daily increase in fatalities and infections.

Some Asian nations that have avoided an uncontrolled spread have seen their numbers rise recently as citizens and residents abroad have returned home in the face of outbreaks in the Middle East, North America and Europe.

Read more: Why does Indonesia have a high COVID-19 mortality rate?

08:25 Russians faced pleas to stay home Saturday and some face ramped-up restrictions as the country tries to prevent the coronavirus from spreading beyond the 1,036 currently confirmed infections.

Restaurants across the country have been shut. Regular international flights have also been prohibited and anyone entering the country will be subject to strict quarantine measures.

President Vladimir Putin has called on all Russians, except those in essential services, to stay home next week and said they would receive paid holiday.

However, the Kremlin has thus far stopped short of instituting a lockdown similar to those in place in other nations.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has said that official coronavirus figures are vastly below reality due to a lack of testing and has instituted harsher measures for the capital.

President Vladimir Putin in full protective gear (AFP/Sputnik/A. Druzhinin)

Putin was pictured this week in full protective gear during a visit to a Moscow hospital that is treating coronavirus patients

Read more: Coronavirus and the economy: World 'clearly' in recession, IMF says

07:55 Sri Lankan police said they have arrested thousands for violating a nationwide curfew intended to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Eighteen of the detained were praying in a mosque in the town of Horowpathana, some 124 miles (200 kilometers) north of the capital, Colombo.

Since March 20, police have arrested 4,600 individuals for violating a curfew that is slated to last until at least next week. Non-essential travel has also been banned. The government is helping an estimated 18,000 stranded tourists return to their home nations.

Sri Lanka has recorded 106 cases of the infection, with no deaths so far.      

Read more: India: Police under fire for using violence to enforce coronavirus lockdown

07:52 Wuhan, the city in central China where the novel coronavirus is thought to have originated, partially reopened Saturday after a strict two-month lockdown.

People are now allowed to enter the city, but not leave. Exit restrictions are expected to be lifted on April 8. 

China reported 54 COVID-19 cases on Friday, all of them "imported." Despite only one confirmed local transmission a day earlier, there is growing skepticism around Beijing's claim to have beaten the virus.

Watch video 02:00

Business slowly gets going in post-coronavirus Hubei

07:40 A total of 86 United Nations staff members around the world have COVID-19, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric has confirmed. UN staff in Europe have been most affected, but staff members in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the US have also confirmed cases. Many UN staff have been working from home since the outbreak began.

07:30 The Luftwaffe, or German Air Force, has begun transporting seriously ill coronavirus patients from Italy to Germany, it announced Saturday.

The Luftwaffe said MedEvac Airbus planes, specially designed for medical transport purposes, were being used and that military medical officials were assisting in the transport.

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer called it "an important sign of solidarity."

"Europe must stay together," she added in a statement that was shared by the Defense Ministry on Twitter.

German hospitals and clinics had already begun taking in patients from Italy, the hardest-hit nation, as well as from eastern France, where the coronavirus outbreak has been particularly virulent.

07:10 As part of DW's #InThisTogether initiative, our social media team has produced a video giving tips on dealing with cabin fever, after days — or weeks — of lockdown measures. 

Watch video 06:07

#InThisTogether: How to deal with cabin fever

06:57 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday on state TV that the nation's health infrastructure was strong and prepared for a possible escalation in the coronavirus outbreak.

Iran was one of the first non-Asian nations to experience a dramatic rise in infections. The country has reported over 32,000 cases, with 2,378 deaths, as of Saturday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. It is the Middle Eastern country with the highest death toll.

Authorities there have repeatedly insisted they have the virus under control. However, international experts fear the country may be underreporting its cases as it faces parliamentary elections in September. The country also waited a long time to institute restrictive measures.

Iranian researchers have estimated that peak infection will not be reached until late May, and that millions could potentially die.

Local media also reported Saturday that thousands have been taken ill and hundreds killed from drinking poisonous methanol alcohol, which many Iranians mistakenly believe will protect them from the virus.

06:29 In an interview with three Italian newspapers, French President Emmanuel Macron called for European nations to act with more solidarity in the battle against the coronavirus.

"We will not overcome this crisis without strong European solidarity on both health and budget questions," he told Corriere de la Serra, La Stampa and La Repubblica.

His words were an indirect criticism of Germany and the Netherlands, who earlier in the week took the lead in blocking calls from Italy and Spain to have the EU create so-called corona bonds, which would see the bloc take on debt at the EU level to assist the hardest-hit countries.

Despite "resistance" from Germany and other countries, "we need to push this fight forward," Macron said.

However, he praised Germany and France for sending masks and protective gear to Italy.

06:03 German media has reported that at least 360,000 applications for immediate financial assistance have been submitted by self-employed workers and small businesses, who have been hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak.  

Some €138 million ($154 million) has been already transferred, German daily Bild reported, citing the results of a survey among the German states. The money need not be paid back.

The assistance is part of a package of measures by the German government to mitigate the economic effects of the crisis and provide a financial lifeline to businesses and individuals who are existentially threatened by the pandemic, which has forced restaurants and non-essential stores to close and seen public life largely canceled. 

A groundbreaking aid package, which received final approval on Friday, frees a total of €50 billion in rapid support for the self-employed and the smallest firms.

Read more: What's in Germany's emergency coronavirus budget?

Watch video 01:53

Going hungry – Germany’s struggling restaurant industry

05:46 Officials in Japan have urged citizens to avoid non-essential movement following a surge in the number of coronavirus infections over the past week. "I realize it's the weekend, but just ask yourself whether or not you can delay what you think you need to do to another day," Tokyo's governor, Yuriko Koike, said.

In particular, Koike called on the tens of millions of residents in the metropolitan area to refrain from taking part in cherry blossom celebrations, an important national pastime that involves communal eating and drinking. The blossoms are expected to reach their peak in the coming days. Crowds had already been out to take in the sight earlier this week.

Confirmed coronavirus infections in Japan stand at 1,499, with the number accelerating recently. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called it "a national crisis," but stopped short of calling a state of emergency.

Public broadcaster NHK reported that Tokyo on Saturday had confirmed more than 50 new cases, a record daily increase.

Commuters in Tokyo (Getty Images/T. Ohsumi)

Tokyo, one of the largest and most densely populated cities on earth, was still packed with workers on Friday

05:29 The United Nations has announced that it is postponing a nuclear conference scheduled from April 27-May 22 in New York City, the current epicenter of the coronavirus, The Associated Press reported Saturday.

The event would have involved the 191 parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty traveling to the organization's New York headquarters to discuss whether the 50-year-old treaty is achieving its goal of slowing the spread of nuclear weapons around the world.

UN spokesperson Stephanie Dujarric said Friday that the conference will take place " as soon as the circumstances permit, but no later than April 2021."

The United States has registered over 100,000 coronavirus infections. Over 26,000 of them are in New York City, where 450 people have died.

Read more: Coronavirus: Trump signs $2.2 trillion relief bill into law

04:45 German Research Minister Anja Karliczek has said that a coronavirus vaccine will most likely not be available until the end of the year.

In an interview with the German newspaper group, Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland, Karliczek said that developing an effective vaccine as quickly as possible must be done carefully. "We need to be sure that the vaccine works and doesn't harm patients."

04:30 South Korea logged 146 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the highest daily number of cases in a week. The new cases bring the country's total infections to over 9,400 while the death toll rose to 144.

In an encouraging development, the country's disease control agency said that over 4,800 people have been released from hospitals, marking the first time that the number of recoveries has exceeded the number of people currently being treated.

Watch video 02:54

South Korean hospital pioneers coronavirus testing booth

03:30 As the outbreak continues to spread throughout the globe, several countries have reported their first coronavirus deaths. 

In Jordan, where there are currently 200 cases, a woman in her 80s passed away from the virus.

In Brunei, the country's first virus fatality was 64-years-old and had a history of travel to the neighboring countries of Malaysia and Cambodia.

South Africa reported its first death as well, with four patients who are currently listed as in critical condition.

Read more: Coronavirus: Countries scramble to retrieve tourists stranded in Asia

02:45 Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in Brazil and questioned the official death toll in the hard-hit state of Sao Paulo, saying it seemed "too large," while accusing the state's governor of manipulating the numbers for political gain.

Bolsonaro has refused to initiate nationwide social distancing measures in Brazil, insisting that protecting the economy is more important and criticizing governors who have taken action locally in Brazilian states.

"I'm sorry, some people will die, they will die, that's life. You can't stop a car factory because of traffic deaths," he said in a television interview.

01:50 Germany will not relax its current restrictions on public life before April 20, Helge Braun, the head of Angela Merkel's Chancellery, told the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel

"We will not discuss any relaxing [of restrictions] until April 20, and until then, all measures will remain in place. Stores, restaurants, schools and universities are closed," said Braun, adding that it should be clear after Easter whether the restrictions have slowed the spread of coronavirus. 

"If we manage to slow the rate of infection so that it takes ten, twelve or more days for cases to double, then we know we're on the right track," said Braun.

Watch video 02:56

Germany spared spiking death rates – so far

01:30 Regulators with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved a new rapid coronavirus test. Medical supply manufacturer Abbott Laboratories said its test can confirm a COVID-19 infection in minutes. The company said it would launch the test next week at a selection of urgent care centers. Many areas of the US have struggled with test kit shortages.

01:00 Brazilian authorities announced a travel ban applying to all foreigners without residency entering the country via airports. The ban will go into effect Monday, Reuters reported. 

Read more:  Coronavirus in Brazil: Cuban doctors wait for their chance

00:35 Wuhan, the city in central China where the novel coronavirus is thought to have originated, partially reopened Saturday. In January, the city of 11 million was completely locked down, with all travel in and out prohibited.

As of Saturday, people will be allowed to enter Wuhan, but not leave. Exit restrictions are expected to be lifted on April 8. The capital of Hubei province, Wuhan is the last city in the province to have travel restrictions lifted.

China reported 54 "imported" COVID-19 cases on Friday. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the US could soon be considered the new "epicenter" of the virus. 

00:15 US states have begun imposing quarantine orders on people arriving from New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the US. In the state of Rhode Island, around 250 kilometers (160 miles) from New York City, state police officers Friday began pulling over vehicles with New York state license plates to collect contact information and inform them of a mandatory 14-day quarantine, the Associated Press reported.

Governors in Texas, Florida, Maryland and South Carolina this week ordered anyone arriving from New York and the neighboring states of New Jersey and Connecticut, to self-quarantine for at least 14 days after arrival.

Times Square in New York City during the coronavirus outbreak (Imago Images/Xinhua/W. Ying)

New York City accounts for nearly a quarter of all COVID-19 cases in the US

00:05 Here's the latest on the healthcare situation in the US:

The coronavirus pandemic is threatening to overwhelm health care systems in several locations in the US, as the number of infections continues to climb exponentially. A week ago, on March 21, the number of COVID-19 cases in the US was around 25,000. On Friday, there were over 100,000 confirmed cases, according to numbers published by Johns Hopkins University.

Health care officials in places like New York City and New Orleans said they need more medicine, protective gear, and medical equipment like ventilators.

In New York City, which has over 25,000 cases, hospitals warn there are not enough beds to treat all of the patients with severe symptoms. On Friday, the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan was converted into a temporary hospital with 1,000 beds. More temporary hospitals are planned.

New Orleans, which has more than 1,100 cases, rushed to complete a makeshift hospital at a convention center Friday. Health officials say Mardi Gras celebrations late last month triggered a COVID-19 outbreak in the city.

00:00 Catch up on yesterday's news here:Italy registers nearly 1,000 new deaths in single day

kmm, dj, cmb, wmr/aw (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa, Interfax, epd, EFE)

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