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The number of COVID-19 infections in the United States grew to over 200,000 as the global total neared 1 million. Aid agencies fear a global food shortage if the pandemic is badly handled. Follow DW for the latest.
Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)
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23:30 Mexico allowed 46 UK nationals to disembark from a cruise ship off its Caribbean coast and fly home, and in exchange the cruise line paid for 141 Mexicans stuck in the UK by coronavirus travel restrictions to fly home, the Mexican government said Wednesday.
22:25 US President Donald Trump said coronavirus infection and death figures coming out of China seem to be "on the light side," after a report earlier in the day said Beijing concealed the disease's extent. Trump warned US citizens that the next couple of weeks are going to be "horrific," as the country grapples with the outbreak amid predictions of up to 200,000 deaths.
About ventilators, the US will soon have an excess, which it will be distributing to other countries, the president said during his daily briefing. Trump also confirmed the construction of two new hospital ships to help ease the burden on the country's overwhelmed medical system.
In addition, the US "will work with the world's largest oil producers to address volatility in global oil markets," National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said.
The Trump administration concluded the news conference by highlighting Iran's refusal to accept the US' offer of help. The Islamic Republic has suffered more than most countries, with over 3,000 deaths and almost 50,000 cases, but longstanding tensions between the two countries appear to have hindered them from working together on the pandemic.
22:11 US Congressman Jim Banks is calling on the State Department to urge China to investigate the disappearance of three Chinese citizen journalists who sought to expose the impact of the coronavirus on the Chinese city of Wuhan.
21:45 J.K. Rowling, author of the world-renowned Harry Potter books, has launched a new website showcasing content from her novels as a way of staving off boredom for children stuck at home during the pandemic. The British author said her new platform "Harry Potter at Home" was aimed at children unable to attend school during these unprecedented times.
The website includes links to free versions of the first in the Potter series, the 1997 novel "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," available as an e-book or audio book in a number of different languages. Puzzles, games and videos are included, with guides on how to draw creatures from the series.
"Parents, teachers and carers working to keep children amused and interested while we're on lockdown might need a bit of magic," Rowling tweeted, along with a link to the new website.
21:11 A Guatemalan migrant has died during a riot over coronavirus fears at an immigration detention center in Mexico. According to officials, mattresses were burned during the unrest, where inmates displayed their anger over overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions, which they believed could expose them to COVID-19.
According to a local migrant shelter in the Tabasco city of Tenosique, 14 other migrants were injured, some seriously, in addition to the death, which was confirmed by the Guatemalan consul in Tabasco.
20:49 A six-week-old baby has died in the United States due to complications relating to the novel coronavirus, the governor of Connecticut has confirmed. Governor Ned Lamont wrote on Twitter that the infant was "brought unresponsive to a hospital late last week and could not be revived."
Lamont added: "Testing confirmed last night that the newborn was COVID-19 positive. This is absolutely heartbreaking. We believe this is one of the youngest lives lost anywhere due to complications relating to COVID-19." Last week Illinois authorities said they were looking into the death of a child "younger than one year" who had tested positive for coronavirus.
20:40 This year's United Nations' Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the UK government said Wednesday. The 26th annual climate summit was due to take place in the city of Glasgow in Scotland in November this year.
"In light of the ongoing, worldwide effects of COVID-19, holding an ambitious, inclusive COP26 in November 2020 is no longer possible," a government statement said. It added that dates for a rescheduled conference in 2021 would be announced later.
20:22 Germany's airforce transported four seriously ill coronavirus patients out of Bergamo, Italy, a military spokesman announced. The Airbus A310 MedEvac was to bring the Italian nationals to Cologne, where they are to be treated in civilian hospitals. Germany's airforce carried out similar missions over the weekend.
18:50 The number of coronavirus infections in the United States went over 200,000 on Wednesday, according to statistics kept by the Johns Hopkins University. The university put its count at 203,608 — making the United States the country with the highest number of confirmed infections. At least 4,361 people have died of the virus in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins.
The White House has projected that between 100,000 and 240,000 people will die of the virus in the United States.
18:30 All Israelis are required to wear medical face masks while in public to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday.
"We ask you, citizens of Israel, all of you, to wear masks in the public sphere," Netanyahu said in a televised speech. People are welcome to improvise masks in the absence of factory-produced ones, he added.
The prime minister also said that approaching religious holidays, including the Jewish holiday of Passover, should be celebrated with immediate family members only.
Thus far, Israel has reported over 6,000 cases of coronavirus and 24 related fatalities.
Medical facilities around the globe are already struggling to acquire the number of masks needed to handle the influx of coronavirus patients. The problem is bound to be exacerbated as more and more governments require their citizens to wear such masks in public. State and private entities are scrambling to ramp up production to meet the sudden demand.
18:10 More evidence has come out showing that coronavirus infections are being spread by people who do not display obvious symptoms, adding complications to efforts to bring the outbreak under control.
Around 10% of new infections may be caused by people who have the infection but do not experience systems, a study conducted by researchers in Singapore and published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday suggests.
Read more: Up to 30% of coronavirus cases asymptomatic
The revelations caused the CDC to change its guidance to say that anyone may be considered a coronavirus carrier, regardless of whether they display symptoms.
An earlier study in China's Hubei province, where the respiratory disease originated, suggested that over 10% of infections may have occurred before people displayed symptoms.
Researchers are also looking into the possibility that infections can also be spread by people who have the illness, recovered, but are still contagious.
16:39 The US state of New York has reported a total of 1,941 coronavirus deaths, up from 1,550 the day before. New York, the epicenter of the outbreak in the US, now has 83,712 confirmed cases of coronavirus, compared to 75,795 reported as of Tuesday. Yesterday, the state surpassed the Chinese province of Hubei, where the outbreak began, in terms of total coronavirus cases.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also said that playgrounds in New York City would be closed in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the city.
16:25 Wives in Saudi Arabia are allowed to refuse to have sex with their husbands if the men do not take precautions to protect themselves from the new coronavirus, a Muslim cleric in the conservative kingdom said.
"You are not a sinner at all...you are protecting yourself," Sheikh Abdullah Ahmed al-Mutlaq, a member of a senior scholars' authority said on a religious TV show. He was responding to a viewer's concern about catching coronavirus from her husband, who continues to go out publicly despite national restrictions, were she to give in to his desire to sleep with her.
"Immunize yourself and stay away from him. If a husband is careless, so the wife has the right to refrain from him," the cleric said.
The kingdom has reported 1,720 coronavirus infections and 16 fatalities. Around 93% of the country's 30 million inhabitants are Muslim.
15:55 A worldwide food shortage could occur if the coronavirus crisis isn't handled properly, three global agencies warned on Wednesday.
"Uncertainty about food availability can spark a wave of export restrictions, creating a shortage on the global market," said a joint statement signed by Qu Dongyu, head of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Roberto Azevedo, director of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Government lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus, which have closed national borders and kept workers at home, have created a significant lag in international food supply chains, while panic buying and hoarding has already left supermarket shelves bear in recent weeks.
"In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdowns, every effort must be made to ensure that trade flows as freely as possible, specially to avoid food shortage(s)" from developing, the statement said.
"When acting to protect the health and well-being of their citizens, countries should ensure that any trade-related measures do not disrupt the food supply chain," it added.
The statement may have been directed at Moscow, where officials are considering restricting wheat exports from Russia to keep prices from spiking there.
"Such disruptions including hampering the movement of agricultural and food industry workers and extending border delays for food containers, result in the spoilage of perishables and increasing food waste," the statement said.
15:50 Germany's Greens have voiced support for the development of a tracking app to monitor people infected with the coronavirus — albeit with certain restrictions.
Konstantin von Notz, the internal affairs spokesperson for the Greens, told DW that the app currently being developed by German researchers would not be used to track people who are infected and would be used on a "voluntary basis."
The app that currently being worked on by German researchers would monitor people who are infected with the virus, anonymously storing the data on the amount of time the person spent with others and to alert them that they should potentially get tested. Von Notz emphasized that the app would only save the contact data of others who have the app.
"That, if done correctly in a detailed way, is a data-efficient solution and an effective way of finding out who might have been potentially infected," von Notz said.
He warned, however, that the app would not be able to — and shouldn't be able to — let people know whether the person standing next to them in line at the grocery store is infected.
Following a phone conference with state leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also spoke in favor of tracking apps.
"It's clear that it would be on a voluntary basis, but if the testing of these apps shows them to be good and set to be successful in better tracing cases of where there has been contact, I'd certainly be in favor of recommending that to citizens," she said.
"I would of course also be prepared to use it myself to perhaps help other people," she added.
1540 In Israel, the defense minister on Wednesday appeared to tie potential coronavirus aid for the Gaza Strip to an attempt to get back the remains of two Israeli soldiers who died in 2014.
Gaza, which currently has 12 reported cases of coronavirus, has just 96 ventilators for its population of 2 million. The impoverished Palestinian territory does not have the infrastructure to contain an outbreak.
Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters that it would "not be right" to disconnect aid for Gaza from Israel recovering the soldiers' remains.
"The moment there is talk of the humanitarian world in Gaza. Israel also has humanitarian needs, which are mainly the recovery of the fallen," Bennett of the soldiers whose remains are being held by Hamas, Gaza's Islamist governing authority.
It was unclear whether Bennett was referring to the possibility of Israel providing aid directly, or of the country allowing the transfer of aid over its borders.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum rejected the idea. "Israel bears responsibility for any consequences should the disease spread in Gaza because it has been blockading it for 13 years," he said. "A prisoner swap deal is a separate track."
Meanwhile, Israeli authorities are also considering a full lockdown for the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, a crowded ultra-Orthodox suburb with around 730 known cases of coronavirus.
The suburb of 200,000 has the second-highest number of infections in the country after Jerusalem. The government fears that the ultra-Orthodox community is continuing to meet for large gatherings despite a ban on doing so. On Saturday, some 400 people attended a rabbi’s funeral. Over 1 million of Israel’s 9 million inhabitants are ultra-Orthodox Jews.
15:05 The Wimbledon tennis tournament has been canceled for the first time since World War II, the All England Club said.
Following an emergency meeting, officials said the oldest Grand Slam tournament in tennis would not be held in 2020. Wimbledon was scheduled to be played on the outskirts of London from June 29 to July 12.
14:40 UEFA, European soccer's governing body, postponed international matches scheduled to be played in June. Other competitions, including the Champions League, are also on hold, UEFA announced.
"All national team matches for men and women due to be played in June 2020 are postponed until further notice. This includes the play-off matches for Euro 2020 and qualifying matches for the women's Euro 2021," a statement said. "All other UEFA competition matches, including the centralized international friendly matches, remain postponed until further notice."
13:55 In a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus, German state and federal leaders decided to extend restrictions prohibiting groups of people meeting in public until the end of the Easter holidays. During a phone conference, Chancellor Angela Merkel and state interior ministers agreed that social distancing rules will remain in place to stop people from meeting more than one other person outside of their own family or household, German media reported.
"A pandemic does not take a vacation," Merkel said following the call.
Citizens "are urged to keep contact with people beyond their own household to an absolute minimum, even during the Easter holidays, in accordance with the applicable rules," Focus Online and the German dpa news agency cited a draft resolution for the telephone conference as saying.
13:30 The United Kingdom recorded over 500 daily coronavirus deaths for the first time, the British government announced on Wednesday. Officials logged 563 new deaths, bringing the total number of COVID-19 fatalities to 3,352. As of Wednesday morning, the number of confirmed cases rose to 29,474.
Prince Charles has recovered after testing positive for coronavirus. His office said he was now in good health.
The 71-year-old heir to the British throne said he finds himself "in no less a state of social distance and general isolation."
Charles went into self-isolation last week and came out on Monday after experiencing what he said were "luckily … relatively mild symptoms."
Charles applauded the commitment of health care workers fighting the virus and praised the work of charities supporting the elderly during the coronavirus crisis.
13:20 Adidas has apologized for saying it would stop paying rent for stores in Europe that have been closed due to coronavirus prevention measures. The company said it would pay rent in April after facing a wave of backlash, including calls for a boycott, over its earlier decision.
"Almost all over the world, there is no normal business anymore. The shops are closed. Even a healthy company like Adidas cannot stand this for long," Adidas said in an open letter sent to several media outlets.
The German sportswear giant said it understood criticism levied against it from customers and politicians alike.
"We would, therefore, like to apologize to you formally. We have paid our landlords the rent for April," Adidas said.
13:13 In France, the death toll rose to over 4,000 with many of those who died coming from the eastern region of Grand Est, along the border with Germany. Regional health authorities said 1,015 people have died in France after contracting COVID-19 in Grand Est. To relieve pressure on hospitals in the region, some patients have already been transferred to hospitals in Germany, Luxemburg and Switzerland.
A pair of trains carried some 36 patients from Paris to western France on Wednesday. It was the first time that high-speed trains brought patients out of the French capital.
French public health officials said the total confirmed number of coronavirus infection in France reached 56,989. A total of 4,032 people have died of the virus in France. The total makes France the fourth country to report more than 4,000 coronavirus deaths after Italy, Spain and the United States.
The French Interior Ministry has handed out nearly 360,000 fines to people who have been caught violating the country's strict lockdown measures.
13:10 Switzerland's Health Ministry announced on Wednesday that its national death toll from the coronavirus reached 378, rising from 373 a day earlier. The number of confirmed infections also increased to 17,139 from 16,176 on Tuesday.
The Swiss government is in the process of expanding its emergency liquidity scheme for businesses hit by the effects of the coronavirus crisis. Meanwhile, banks have already distributed more than half of the 20 billion Swiss francs ($20.7 billion, €18.3 billion) put-aside for state-backed loans.
12:52 Senegal has reported its first coronavirus-related death. Pape Diouf, the former president of French soccer club Marseille and a former sports journalist, died at the age of 68 after contracting the virus, the country's Health Ministry announced.
Diouf, who was president of the Marseille club from 2005-09, had been treated since Saturday in an intensive care unit of a Dakar hospital.
"I pay tribute to this great figure in sport," Senegalese President Macky Sall tweeted.
Family members said Diouf was meant to be moved to France. He had recently traveled to a number of countries throughout West Africa.
Senegal has registered 190 cases of the coronavirus, with 45 of those having recovered.
12:36 European Union: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has proposed a short-term work scheme modeled on a similar German program to support EU citizens keep their jobs as the coronavirus pandemic takes a blow on economies across the bloc.
Von der Leyen made the announcement via video message but did not give details on how the scheme would be funded. She said only that it would be guaranteed by all EU countries.
"Companies are paying salaries to their employees, even if, right now, they are not making money. Europe is now coming to their support, with a new initiative," she said. "It is intended to help Italy, Spain and all other countries that have been hard hit. And it will do so thanks to the solidarity of other member states."
In Germany's long-standing short-work, or Kurzarbeit, scheme, a part of a worker's wages is covered by the government if companies cut their work hours during a slowdown to prevent them from entirely cutting jobs.
12:25 In Germany, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz announced the country is setting aside €2 billion ($2.2 billion) in aid to help start-ups survive the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Federal Association of German Start-ups, nine out of 10 new emerging companies are feeling the effects of the coronavirus crisis.
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Germany's start-up scene has made significant progress in recent years that it should not give up.
Read more: Start-ups get a coronavirus boost
The German government is also working to set up a €10 billion start-up fund.
11:57 Indonesia has said the national death toll from COVID-19 had reached 157, compared with 58 a week ago. Eleven of the victims were frontline doctors. Infections have more than doubled over the same period to 1,677. Experts fear figures of coronavirus cases are much higher, as testing rates are low.
An 11-year-old girl has become the country's youngest person to die after contracting the coronavirus, officials said. The girl was also suffering from dengue fever and died a day after being admitted to hospital on March 19. Tests only confirmed this week that the child also had COVID-19.
11:55 The Philippines has recorded 227 new coronavirus cases and eight more deaths, the country's Health Ministry said, bringing the total number of infections and deaths to 2,311 and 96, respectively.
Residents of a slum area in the capital Manila staged a protest, demanding basic emergency relief goods such as food amid a month-long lockdown that has left many of them without work. Police arrested 20 of the protesters after they refused to go back to their homes.
11:07 Russia President Vladimir Putin will hold a government meeting later today by video conference, a day after a doctor who met with Putin last week said he had tested positive for COVID-19.
The Kremlin said Putin's health is fine, but that he is choosing to keep his distance from other people and preferred to work remotely.
The doctor, Denis Protsenko, had given Putin a tour of Moscow's main coronavirus hospital in Moscow and shook the leader's hand.
10:50 Here's an overview of the latest numbers from some of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic:
In Iran, the death toll from the virus reached 3,036, with 138 deaths in the past 24 hours, health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told state TV. He said the country had 47,593 infected cases — 2,987 of which had been declared in the past 24 hours.
The United States is now the country with by far the highest number of COVID-19 cases — a total of 189,633 — according to the Johns Hopkins University (JHU). The figures include 4,081 fatalities, around a quarter of which are in New York City.
Second-most affected is Italy, which has 105,792 cases of infection, according to the JHU tally. It thus far has a much higher death rate, with 12,428 fatalities.
Globally, there have been 873,767 infection cases and 43,228 deaths as a result of the pandemic.
10:33 In an interview with DW, Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), said refugee camps require global solidarity to tackle coronavirus, stressing that as long as the virus can spread to the more vulnerable, the coronavirus pandemic can never be dealt with.
Egeland warned that the highly contagious virus poses a significant threat to refugees, as the virus can thrive in congested camps and settlements. He said the NRC is working to provide more handwashing facilities, more water and sanitation to camps in Afghanistan, in Iran and in 30 other countries.
"We're overwhelmed, overstretched … There must be more injection of humanitarian aid," Egeland said.
The non-governmental organization is also trying to provide more space for refugees so they have physical distance from each other.
10:15 Japan is on the brink of crisis, with medical experts particularly worried about preparations for an upsurge in coronavirus cases in Tokyo, officials say.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that controlling the virus was a top priority. He said the Japanese government would do "whatever is needed."
However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shied away from declaring a state of emergency. Even if it were declared, he said, it would not mean he could order an immediate nationwide lockdown of cities, such as in France. Any emergency declaration would allow prefectural governors to make necessary requests and give orders, he said.
Abe said that even if Japan could avoid an explosive spread of the coronavirus, the country was expected to "remain on the brink for a long time."
Japan has some 2,229 COVID-19 cases and 57 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University — far lower than numbers from the United States, Europe and China. However, new infections continue to set fresh daily records.
09:52 The number of coronavirus infections in Spain has risen to 102,136, the Health Ministry announced Wednesday. On Tuesday, it had registered 94,417 cases. Fatalities rose over 24 hours from 8,189 to 9,053 — a record daily rise of 864 individuals.
09:36 The Italian government is extending its emergency coronavirus lockdown through April 13, the health minister confirmed to lawmakers.
The economically debilitating lockdown has seen nationwide business and school closures, a ban on public gatherings, factory closures and severe travel restrictions.
"The country is at a standstill and we must maintain the least amount of activity possible to ensure the survival of all," civil protection service chief Angelo Borrelli told reporters.
Italy's death toll — the highest in the world — stood at 12,428 on Tuesday.
The country's outbreak began on February 20. Its 60 million people have been under lockdown since March 10.
09:02 As of today, shoppers visiting supermarkets and drug stores in Austria will only be permitted to enter if they are wearing a face mask, in accordance with new government measures.
Austria's Health Ministry has given stores until April 6 at the latest to begin implementing the new restrictions. A mask must be provided to shoppers upon entry; alternatively, customers will be allowed to wear their own mask.
The biggest challenge for stores would be sourcing the up to 4 million masks per day, Rainer Will, head of the country's trade association, told Austrian public broadcaster ORF.
A spokesperson for the grocery store chain Spar called on customers in Austria to stagger their store-visiting times, Bavarian broadcaster BR24 reported.
Face masks are in short global supply, with reports of frontline medical workers in some countries being told to share face masks and other protective gear.
Pamela Fidler-Stolz, reporting for Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung, was handed a mask on entry at her local supermarket and said it was very straight-forward: "It was very relaxed and there was enough masks: One store worker controlled the entry of customers, and asked each person to take a mask out the stand on entry."
07:56 The UK is aiming to increase the number of tests for coronavirus to 25,000 a day by the middle of April from its current capacity of 12,750 a day, Housing Minister Robert Jenrick told Sky News on Wednesday.
The UK is beginning to test medical staff in addition to patients in hospitals. According to Jenrick, 8,240 individuals were tested on Monday and more than 900 health workers were tested over the weekend.
There are currently 25,481 positive cases in the UK, according to Johns Hopkins University in the US.
Guidelines for coronavirus testing vary from country to country. Countries where testing is only being done on patients with severe symptoms are believed to have a larger number of unknown cases.
South Korea took the lead in widespread coronavirus testing, and many attribute Germany's broad testing to the country's low fatality rate. Virologist Christian Drosten, whose team developed the first test for the coronavirus at Berlin's Charite hospital, has estimated that Germany is now capable of carrying out 500,000 coronavirus tests a week.
Read more: Is comparing coronavirus death rates futile?
07:39 Colombia confirmed its first coronavirus cases among the country's indigenous people, Reuters reported, citing local authorities. Two people from the Yukpa group, who live in makeshift shelters in an impoverished area on the northern border, tested positive.
In Brazil, the Amazonas state has become the first in the country to register a case of the coronavirus among indigenous people, Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported, citing Brazil's secretary of health. A 19-year-old Kokama woman tested positive for the virus. The patient lives in Santo Antonio do Ica, a municipality located about 250 kilometers (155 miles) from the border with Colombia.
Indigenous leaders from across Latin America on Monday called for protection against the coronavirus, warning that the disease poses an "existential threat" to their communities.
"Indigenous people living in voluntary isolation are especially vulnerable to infectious disease as they don't have any immunity at all against most diseases," said Claudette Labonte, from the Congress of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin.
07:18 Saudi Arabia has urged Muslims to wait before making plans to take part in the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, as the nation is still evaluating safety measures related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Muhammad Saleh bin Taher Banten, the Saudi minister for the hajj, told state TV on Tuesday.
The kingdom currently has over 1,500 cases. It has already barred individuals from entering the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
Up to 2 million Muslims perform the yearly pilgrimage, one of the central pillars of Islam. Canceling the hajj would be unprecedented in modern times, but limiting attendance from high-risk areas has happened before, such as during the Ebola outbreak.
06:45 Taiwan has said it will donate 10 million masks to the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.
The island, which is the world's second-largest mask producer, will send 7 million masks to 11 European countries including Italy, Spain and Germany.
The United States will receive 2 million masks, Germany's DPA news agency reported, with a further 1 million masks to be sent to the 15 countries with which Taiwan has diplomatic relations.
Taiwan soon expects to be able to make 15 million surgical masks a day.
As of Tuesday, Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center said there had been 322 total cases of COVID-19 on the island, including five deaths.
Meanwhile, President Tsai Ing-wen announced a financial stimulus valuing some $35 billion (€31 billion) to cushion the impact of the coronavirus on the Taiwanese economy.
06:23 China's National Health Commission says it has recorded 36 new cases of the COVID-19 disease in one day, after announcing that asymptomatic cases would be included in the official count from now on. It did not say if any of the new cases was asymptomatic.
The commission said all but one of the new cases was imported from abroad. It also added that there had been seven more deaths from the disease in the past 24 hours.
China’s National Health Commission has reported 1,367 asymptomatic cases under observation as of Tuesday. The country announced earlier on Wednesday that is was extending screening to asymptomatic cases and the people with whom they have been in contact.
The data comes amid scrutiny of figures reported by the Chinese authorities, which previously only included those people who exhibited symptoms. The proportion of people who have contracted the virus but remain asymptomatic is currently unknown, but experts have estimated it could be as high as 30%. According to scientists, these carriers can still pass COVID-19 onto others who do become sick.
While China's domestic outbreak has largely subsided, questions have arisen over whether the country's failure to count asymptomatic cases would lead to a resurgence of infections.
China, where the novel coronavirus was first detected in December, has recorded a total of 81,554 cases of COVID-19 and 3,312 deaths from the disease.
05:47 United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said the coronavirus pandemic amounted to humanity's worst crisis since World War II, with the outbreak threatening people in every country.
Guterres said the disease and measures taken against it would likely bring about a recession "that probably has no parallel in the recent past."
The effect of both the disease and its economic impact will contribute to "enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict," the UN chief said at the launch on Tuesday of a report into the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19.
"We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations — one that is killing people, spreading human suffering, and upending people's lives," the report said.
"This is much more than a health crisis. It is a human crisis. The coronavirus disease is attacking societies at their core."
Earlier, Guterres announced a new trust fund that would help some countries respond to the emergency and recover from its effects at a social and economic level.
05:40 German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to meet state premiers from across Germany on Wednesday to discuss the effect that anti-coronavirus measures are having.
Germany introduced strict contact restrictions about 10 days ago, banning meetings between more than two people not from the same household outside of the workplace.
It is expected that the latest discussions will include a debate over an obligation to wear masks in public places. Austria announced such a measure on Monday, triggering discussions in Germany. Some municipalities in the eastern state of Thuringia have already issued decrees for masks to be mandatory in supermarkets, buses and trains.
Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn on Tuesday said he was against making it obligatory for protective masks to be worn.
05:23 Germany now has 71,808 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection, according to the Johns Hopkins University. This makes it the country with the fifth-highest level of infection in the world, although this has been partly attributed to the widespread testing being carried out in the country. The university data also shows a total of 775 deaths as a result of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Meanwhile, Germany's public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), put the death toll in the country at 732 as of early Wednesday and the total number of infection cases at 67,366. The RKI sometimes has a slight time lag in updating its data because it collates figures submitted by regional and local authorities.
The agency's data showed infections had increased by 5,453 compared with the previous day, while the death toll had experienced a sharp rise of 149.
04:29 The death toll in the US from the novel coronavirus pandemic has reached 4,076 — double the number from three days prior, the Johns Hopkins University in Maryland reported. The total number of infections has reached 189,510 nationwide, according to the same statistics. Experts have predicted that up to 240,000 individuals in the US could die as a result of the outbreak.
03:51 In sharp change from his usual tone on the coronavirus pandemic, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro acknowledged the danger posed by the outbreak. "The virus is a reality," he said in a televised speech on Tuesday. "We are standing in front of one of the greatest challenges of our generation."
Previously, Bolsonaro dismissed the virus as a "little flu," criticized lockdowns imposed by local authorities, and flaunted social distancing recommendations from his own government by meeting groups of his supporters. He also repeatedly urged Brazilians to return to work.
In the Tuesday speech, Bolsonaro once again voiced his concerns over the economy and warned that the cure against the outbreak cannot be worse than the pandemic itself.
03:33 Taiwan's government will provide an economic stimulus of over $1 trillion, (€907 billion) to mitigate coronavirus fallout, said President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday.
03:27 German police believe anti-pandemic isolation measures are causing a rise in domestic violence. The rise is already noticeable according to the data provided by victims' shelters and emergency phone operators, said senior police representative Harald Schmidt.
Speaking to Passauer Neue Presse daily, Schmidt said that similar spikes regularly happen during Christmas holidays when families "spend more time with each other." However, the current crisis is also boosting financial fears and other stress factors often linked with abuse, said Schmidt.
03:17 California will release some 3,500 non-violent inmates from prison as part of its efforts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials said on Tuesday.
The first group will consist of inmates with less than 30 days to serve, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). They would be followed by prisoners with less than 60 days remaining of their term.
"We do not take these new measures lightly," CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz said in a statement. "However, in the face of a global pandemic, we must consider the risk of COVID-19 infection as a grave threat to safety, too."
03:14 German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier joined several heads of state to urge a "new global alliance" against the coronavirus in a letter published by the Financial Times on Wednesday.
"This pandemic will not spare any country, no matter how advanced its economy, capabilities, or technology," the leaders said in a letter also signed by Singapore's President Halimah Yacob, Ethiopia's Sahle-Work Zewde, Ecuador's Lenin Moreno, as well as Jordan's King Abdullah II.
"This is a global crisis," the letter states. "Delay in action means death." Among other measures, the heads of state called for boosting research into treatments and vaccines, and "fair and equitable" distribution of medical equipment ant testing kits. "A global solution is in everybody's self-interest," they said.
03:00 Germany's Bayreuth Festival, the annual opera event honoring composer Richard Wagner, has been canceled due to the coronavirus.
The popular music festival had been set to start in late July and last until late August. The event was to feature a premiere of a new production of Wagner's epic four-part Ring Cycle.
"We are of course sad, especially because we were looking forward to an exciting new production of the 'Ring,'" said the festival chief and composer's great-granddaughter Katharina Wagner. "But health comes first," she told Germany's DPA news agency.
02:28 Austria has mobilized 3,500 additional civil service conscripts to help with the anti-coronavirus effort.
The EU country provides a civilian alternative for people unwilling to do the national military service. Out of the 3,500 civilian servicemen, 2,000 are volunteers who previously completed their mandatory stints, and 1,500 are active servicemen who decided to stay in the system for longer due to the pandemic.
The men would mostly focus on supporting caregivers with transport, organization and logistics, said Agriculture, Regions and Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger.
"Currently, this is peace before the storm," said Köstinger, whose ministry is also in charge of the civilian service. "Our care-providing system will very quickly be put under extreme strain, so we need all the support we can get."
02:11 German Chancellor Angela Merkel and premiers of Germany's 16 states are set to hold a telephone conference on Wednesday to discuss the battle against the ongoing pandemic. The leaders would discuss prolonging lockdown measures introduced on Monday last week. Another issue on the agenda should be the possibility of using a tracking app to monitor people infected with the coronavirus. Additionally, the politicians will consider further expanding intensive care capacity in German hospitals.
01:57 With NBA games canceled due to the pandemic, NBA players will now play video games against each other for charity, the basketball league said.
The televised tournament will feature 16 athletes from different teams playing NBA 2K — a video game which features likenesses and names of real-life NBA teams and players — starting this Friday. The final match is scheduled for Saturday next week.
The winner is set to receive $100,000 (€90,771) to donate to a charity of his choice supporting COVID-19 relief.
01:15 Amazon faced heavy criticism after firing a worker who staged a strike, asking for the company to provide better protection from the coronavirus. The retail giant claims the employee, previously working in a warehouse on New York's Staten Island, was fired because he violated quarantine rules and endangered his colleagues.
On Tuesday, New York's Attorney General slammed the sacking as "immoral and inhumane."
"It is disgraceful that Amazon would terminate an employee who bravely stood up to protect himself and his colleagues," she said in a statement, adding that her office was "considering all legal options." Separately, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he had ordered the city's human rights officer to look into the incident.
01:02 In the United States, 865 people died of the coronavirus in the previous 24 hours, a record day-to-day increase based on the tally provided by the Johns Hopkins University. The country has so far lost 3,873 lives to the disease. With a total of 188,172 infections, the US has more coronavirus patients than any other country in the world.
00:44 The US aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt is hit with an outbreak of COVID-19 and its commanding officer called for "decisive action" to stop the spread among the 5,000-sailor crew.
"We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die," Captain Brett Crozier wrote in a letter to the navy dated on Monday. Crozier asked for over 4,000 people on board to be removed and isolated, warning that most of the current accommodation on board was not suitable for quarantine.
Keeping them on board "is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those sailors entrusted to our care," he wrote. US officials cited by the Reuters news agency said that nearly 80 people aboard the nuclear-powered warship had tested positive for the virus.
On Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he had not read the letter in detail, but added it was not the time to evacuate the ship. "I don't think we're at that point," he told CNN.
00:30 US President Donald Trump hinted at expanding travel restrictions on Tuesday, saying that he was "absolutely" considering a ban on Brazil and several other countries.
In February and March, the US administration introduced bans on travelers from China and virtually all western European countries in a bid to curb the spread COVID-19. Brazil is the worst affected country in Latin America, with 5,717 confirmed infections and over 200 deaths.
00:25 Over 100 police officers are currently quarantined in the US territory of Puerto Rico, with the authorities shuttering the third police station this week on Tuesday.
The island with some 3.2 million inhabitants has so far confirmed over 230 cases of the coronavirus and eight deaths. Dozens of police officers are awaiting their test results.
Vice president of a local police union, Gregorio Matias, demanded more protective equipment and accused the government of "dragging its feet." "What do they want? To be left without police officers?" he was quoted as saying by the AP news agency.
00:20 Here's a recap of the global figures:
857,487 confirmed cases
178,034 recovered worldwide
00:00 Catch up on yesterday's news here: Coronavirus latest: France, Spain, UK record deadliest day
dj/sms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)