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Coronavirus latest: Spain death toll surpasses China

March 25, 2020

Spain has recorded more deaths than any country except Italy, with global fatalities surpassing 20,000. The German parliament has approved a multi-billion euro coronavirus aid package. Follow DW for the latest.

Man wearing protective gear in front of military vehicle
Image: Reuters/S. Perez
  • Only Italy now has a higher number of coronavirus deaths than Spain
  • Global deaths have surpassed 20,000, mostly in Europe, global cases have exceeded 450,000
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel has tested negative on second coronavirus test
  • The German parliament has approved a coronavirus aid package that is expected to see Germany take on new debt for the first time since 2013

Read more: Coronavirus: What are the lockdown measures across Europe?

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

This live updates article has now closed. Click here for the Thursday March 26 latest updates.

23:00 The Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti has lost a no-confidence over his response to the pandemic, toppling his government. 

Read more here: Kosovo's government toppled through no-confidence vote over coronavirus response

22:43 France is withdrawing troops from Iraq due to the pandemic. 

France has around 200 military personnel working in Iraq, mostly training local armed forces or in the coalition's Baghdad headquarters.

"In coordination with the Iraqi government, the coalition has decided to adjust its deployments in Iraq and provisionally suspend training activities," it said in a statement.

The UK has already announced it will withdraw some of its troops, as have the Czech Republic. 

21:35 Earlier today, German education ministers agreed that school-leaving exams would go ahead nationwide.

States had been disagreeing on whether to postpone or cancel the "Abitur" exam season as all schools have closed, but now states have agreed that the exam season must go on.

Read more: Germany: School-leaving exams will go ahead despite coronavirus

21:20 Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed by Christians to house Christ's tomb, had been shut. Earlier on Wednesday, Israel tightened movement restrictions and Palestinians announced their first death.

"We have been informed of the closure. Our understanding is that it is for one week. We hope it will reopen as soon as possible," Wadie Abunassar, a spokesperson for the local clergy, told AFP news agency.

20:47 Spain's death toll is second only to Italy now. Watch DW's latest report for the details.

20:40 Pennsylvania has become the latest US state to delay its presidential primary election. Lawmakers voted to postpone the vote, scheduled for April, until June, when they hope the COVID-19 pandemic may be receding in the US.

More than 10 states have now postponed their primary election dates. The only two candidates who remain in the running for the Democrat nomination are Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, both of whom have cut back on campaigning as public life in the US faces increased restrictions.

20:40 In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has urged member states to screen potential outside investors carefully, and said Brussels would issue refreshed guidelines.

"To those member states that do not have such a mechanism, I tell them now is the time to create it," she said in a video message.

"In the meantime, you should use all options to protect critical European companies from foreign takeovers or influence that could undermine our security and public order."

20:20 Global deaths have surpassed 20,000, mostly in Europe, with confirmed cases at just under 460,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

20:07 The UK parliament has closed its doors a week before the planned Easter break to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
"The House of Commons has agreed to adjourn for Easter recess and will next sit on 21 April 2020," the lower chamber announced on its Twitter page. 

"Obviously parliament has to lead by example," House Secretary Robert Jennick told parliament.

The early closure meant a hastened departure for opposition leader and Labour party chief Jeremy Corbyn, who announced his resignation after being defeated in the December 2019 election. His successor is expected to be announced on April 4.

19:49 French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged "massive investments" in the country's public hospital health system.

"Once this crisis is over, a massive investment plan and an upgrade of the career paths will be put in place for our hospital system," Macron said in the city of Mulhouse in eastern France.

France has seen over 1,300 deaths from COVID-19, and their public health system has been pushed to breaking point, with Germany taking some patients in need of intensive-care beds.

Macron thanked his European neighbors for the assistance, stressing that Europe had shown "solidarity."

19:40 The German Bundestag on Wednesday approved a €750 billion aid package to cushion the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Watch this latest report from DW for details:

Coronavirus: German parliament approves historic aid 

19:32 The economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic is expected to be worse than the 2008 financial crash, the World Trade Organization’s chief has said.

"Recent projections predict an economic downturn and job losses that are worse than the global financial crisis a dozen years ago," Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in a video message posted on the Geneva-based body's website.

Azevedo has called for countries to work together to face up the economic downturn as quickly as possible. He acknowledged that the WTO was "still crunching the numbers" and was yet to publish an official forecast.

19:26 Turkey will be able to slow the transmission of COVID-19 within two to three weeks, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced. School closures in Turkey were also extended until April 30, and public life remains severely restricted.

Erdogan, speaking to the nation on television, expressed confidence that Turkey will overcome the coronavirus outbreak "in the shortest possible time with the least damage possible."

Turkey’s death count rose to 44 on Tuesday, and the number of confirmed cases rose by 343 to 1,872.

19:24: In the US, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to 61,167 while 849 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University's tracker on the novel coronavirus. 

The US trails China and Italy among the countries with the most confirmed infections worldwide.

18:43 The Tony Awards, the world’s most famous theater awards, have been postponed indefinitely. The New York awards recognize the best on Broadway every year. Broadway theaters closed their doors several weeks ago.

"The health and safety of the Broadway community, artists and fans is of the utmost importance to us," the awards committee wrote on their website.

18:29 France's death count surpassed 1,300 on Wednesday, with over 25,000 confirmed cases overall. This is an increase of 200 deaths from the day before.

17:58 The World Health Organization has urged all countries that have imposed lockdowns to introduce "aggressive measures to find, isolate, test, treat and trace" cases.

The WHO has also stressed the importance of countries using the "little bit of time" that lockdowns are buying countries. "Now you have to use this time."

17:55 Criminals are "flooding" European markets with counterfeit drugs, masks and medical equipment amid the coronavirus pandemic, Europol said on Wednesday.
"The distribution of counterfeit or sub-standard goods has been a key area of criminal activity in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic," the spokesman for the European police agency, Jan Op Gen Oorth, said.

After many products were pulled from sale for false claims of curing or protecting against COVID-19, criminals were now  "taking advantage of the situation," he added.

17:37 More than 400,000 people have volunteered to help the fight against COVID-19, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at his daily press conference.

He made a plea for volunteers to step up to help the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) 24 hours ago and said the government had been overwhelmed by the response.

He also said that the UK government was moving with "extraordinary speed" to prop up the British economy, as businesses and individuals face a loss of earnings from measures put in place to tackle coronavirus.

17:26 All entertainment venues, parks and malls in Moscow will be closed next week and all public events canceled to curb the spread of the virus, says Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin. Earlier on Wednesday, Russia's Vladimir Putin said businesses and public offices across Russia would not be working next week.

17:14 Italian officials say 683 people have died of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 7,503. The authorities also reported over 5,000 new cases, putting the total number of coronavirus patients in Italy to 74,386. Italy has had more coronavirus-related deaths than any other nation in the world.

17:11 Check out DW's COVID-19 special. This episode looks at the impact of the pandemic on the African continent:

COVID-19 hits Africa


17:05 The top diplomats of G7 countries called for a global "early-warning system" on security and foreign policy issues amid the coronavirus crisis.

Germany's Heiko Maas said that he and his UK counterpart, Dominic Raab, jointly presented a proposal that was accepted as a basis for the coordinated G7 response to the crisis.

The initiative should also include a joint effort to protect "rules-based global trade," Maas said in a statement following the G7 talks on Wednesday.

17:04 G7 countries must help develop medication and vaccines to fight COVID-19, but should also help the countries with fewer resources and fight the "dramatic economic consequences of the pandemic," Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after conferring with his G7 counterparts.   

"The nations which are most powerful economically are the ones that need to act with solidarity and responsibly and think beyond their own interests," he said in a statement published by his ministry. "Germany will do whatever is possible and necessary."

17:00 German Chancellor Angela Merkel talked to China's Xi Jinping by phone on Wednesday. Both stressed the need for "close international cooperation," according to a German government spokesman.

On Twitter, DW's Michaela Küfner points out the "elephant in the phone line: the publicity war with China seeking to upstage EU over lack of cooperation."

16:47 The relics of Saint Corona, a little-known patron saint of resisting epidemics, are to go on public display in Aachen Cathedral once the current coronavirus outbreak ends, German officials said.

Corona is Latin for "crown." Coronaviruses, including COVID-19, are named after the crown-like spikes on their surface.

However, Corona is also the name of a teenage girl who was declared a saint after being brutally murdered by Romans in either the 2nd or 3rd century BC. She is also considered the patron saint of lumberjacks.

The management of Aachen Cathedral, a western German city near the Dutch border, has been preparing and cleaning the gold, bronze and ivory shrine - which contains the relics - for a public display even before the outbreak reached Germany. With this summer's exhibition on gold craftsmanship delayed, it was not clear when the public will be able to view the religious object.

"We have brought the shrine out a bit earlier than planned and now we expect more interest due to the virus," said Aachen Cathedral spokeswoman Daniela Loevenich.

16:33 Spain's death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic now stands at more than 3,430, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Only Italy's toll stands higher, at more than 6,800.

16:15 According to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo top diplomats of G7 nations, which includes the US, Canada, Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Japan, agreed that China was running a "disinformation" effort on the coronavirus pandemic.

"Every one of the nations that were at that meeting this morning was deeply aware of the disinformation campaign that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in to try and deflect from what has really taken place," Pompeo told reporters after the videoconference with his counterparts from the world's most industrialized nations.

16:00 German Chancellor Angela Merkel has tested negative on her second coronavirus test, a spokesman for the German government said on Wednesday. The previous test was also negative for the 65-year-old politician, who is currently in self-quarantine.

15:39 The Syrian White Helmets have urged the international community to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in Syria. Talking to DW, the organization's representative, Ammar Al Selmo, warned there were hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people living in overcrowded camps in northwestern Syria. "If this virus spreads here, we will die like cattle," he told DW's Brent Goff. "We will be devastated."

Separately,  the humanitarian aid organization, International Rescue Committee, said that a COVID-19 outbreak could "soon become one of the most severe outbreaks in the world."

15:35: The German Interior Ministry is banning entry at borders to seasonal workers. The German Farmers' Association president,Joachim Rukwied, says farmers will be hit hard and that the ban needs to be as short in duration as possible.

15:26 The German parliament agreed to suspend the debt brake that is enshrined into the country's Basic Law to prevent excessive borrowing.The Wednesday vote would allow the country to pass an unprecedented coronavirus aid package by adding €156 billion ($169 billion) of new debt.

15:04 The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged creditors to provide debt relief to the world's poorest countries. The officials called for debt payments to be suspended for nations in the International Development Association (IDA).

The IDA lends to dozens of impoverished World Bank member states, most of them located in Africa. The suspension "will help with IDA countries’ immediate liquidity needs to tackle challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak and allow time for an assessment of the crisis impact and financing needs for each country," the IMF and the World Bank said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

14:37 Doctors and nurses in public hospitals in Zimbabwe went on strike on Wednesday, protesting the lack of protective gear as they face the outbreak."Right now we are exposed and no one seems to care,'' said the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors' Association president, Tawanda Zvakada.

The impoverished African nation of some 15 million people currently has three confirmed cases, with the first coronavirus death reported this week.

14:36 Germany has brought over 150,000 German citizens and residents who were stranded overseas back to Germany, the Foreign Ministry has announced.

The German government worked with the airline Lufthansa to return travelers and holidaymakers who are in high-risk areas or who had transport canceled as airlines stripped back flights. They also chartered special planes.

All in all, Germany plans to bring back 200,000 travelers. "We still have a long way to go," said government spokesman Rainer Breul.

14:30 The German parliament has approved a coronavirus aid package worth more than €750 billion, which will allow the governnment to take on new debt for the first time since 2013.

14:21 The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia is mulling releasing prisoners to free up space in correctional facilities during the COVID-19 outbreak. The authorities are willing to release inmates who were sent to prison instead of paying monetary fines, as well as those with maximum sentences of up to 18 months.

In addition, prison sentences would be postponed for people convicted to terms of up to one year. Sex offenders and people "convicted to long prison terms due to serious acts of violence" would be excluded from the scheme. The sentences would be continued at a later date, according to the epd news agency.

There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections among inmates in the northwest German state, but the minister warned that the authorities need to be prepared for a "possible epidemic."

14:04 More than 400 people have been arrested in Turkey for spreading "provocative" social media content on the coronavirus outbreak. Speaking to broadcaster 24TV on Wednesday, Turkey's Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said that nearly two-thirds of those arrested are members of "terror groups" such as Kurdish militias or the religious movement headed by the exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.

13:55 Germany's Defense Ministry has denied media reports that its military lost 6 million face masks."No masks have been lost from the Bundeswehr inventory," a ministry representative told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday. Previously, Germany's Der Spiegel magazine reported that the masks "disappeared without a trace" at an airport in Kenya.

13:42 Russia's Vladimir Putin has postponed the nationwide referendum on the constitutional reform that would give him the option to stay in power until 2036. The vote had originally been scheduled for April 22.

"You know how seriously I take this issue, and of course I will ask you to come forward and state your opinion on the matter," Putin said in a televised speech. "However... people's health, lives and safety are absolute priorities for us." The Russian leader did not set a new date for the plebiscite.

13:41 Addressing the nation, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the next week in Russia will be work-free.

He also said it was safest for Russians to stay at home.

13:25 A Bavarian distillery is donating pure alcohol to medical facilities in Germany to help them make disinfectant.

"We can't make disinfectant because we don't have a license," Stefan Penninger of the Penninger Distillery was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency."But we are getting a lot of queries from clinics, pharmacies and doctors who want to make disinfectant from our alcohol."

12:50 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been answering questions in the UK Parliament. He's told lawmakers the lockdown measures would be lifted at the earliest possible opportunity, when it is safe to do so. Johnson also said the government would set out "in the next couple of days" what support it would provide to self-employed workers to help them keep afloat during the coronavirus outbreak. Measures to help charities supporting the vulnerable were also on the cards, he added.

12:37 The leaders of nine EU countries, including France, Spain, Belgium and Italy have called on the bloc to create a "common debt instrument" to raise funds for struggling economies and health sectors, according to a letter seen by news agencies. EU leaders are due to hold a video conference on the coronavirus crisis on Thursday. 

"This common debt instrument should have sufficient size and long maturity to be fully efficient and avoid roll-over risks now as in the future," the letter said, adding that the bloc should also "explore other tools like a specific funding for corona-related spending in the EU budget" for 2020 and 2021.

12:33 Ukraine's government has declared a nationwide emergency for the next 30 days due to the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reports. Ministers have also agreed to extend lockdown measures until April 24. The eastern European country has reported 113 cases so far, including 4 deaths.

12:30 Moscow has temporarily banned public events and suspended public transportation for people over 65, said Mayor Sergei Sobyanin in a statement on the city's website. Food shops, banks and household services will remain open, however. Russia currently has a total of 658 cases, 410 of which are in Moscow. However, Sobyanin told Russian President Vladimir Putin that he believes that there are significantly more cases than have been reported. The country is also mulling harsh penalties for violators of quarantine, including prison time and hefty fines, and Putin is expected to address the nation on live television later on Wednesday.

12:20 The economic crisis spurred by the coronavirus pandemic will have worse repercussions than the 2008 financial crisis, the head of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research told DW. 

"This time, we have a real problem in the economy," said Clemens Fuest. "We are stopping the economy. And the only thing that can help is to reconcile the ending of the shutdown with the fight against the epidemic. That's what we have to do, and it's very difficult for a number of reasons. That's why I think this crisis is a lot worse than the financial crisis."

The institute has also said that Germany is experiencing the "single worst drop in 70 years of industry surveys," and that the outlook for manufacturing, services, construction and trade has collapsed.

12:10 The organizers of the 2020 Olympics were left with no choice but to postpone the summer Games in Tokyo. DW looks at the unprecedented financial and organizational challenge they now face.

12:00 If you find yourself suspiciously staring at your pets, your potatoes and even those birthday cards on the mantelpiece, you aren't alone. Coronavirus is seemingly everywhere. What's safe to touch? Check out the gallery to find out.

11:50 Customs officials at Zimbabwe’s biggest airport stopped reporting for work on Wednesday, over concerns about lack of protection against coronavirus, their union said.  Zimbabwe has so far recorded one death out of three confirmed cases of coronavirus, but critics say the government is underreporting the number of cases.

11:39 The German government has just held a press conference with updates on the situation in the country.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert says Chancellor Angela Merkel is fine and continuing international talks and cabinet meetings from home quarantine. She is still to undergo tests. Germany is restricting entry measures further from Wednesday afternoon — this will affect harvest and seasonal workers but will not apply to foreign care workers and nurses, for example coming from eastern Europe.

A health ministry spokesman says we're at the "beginning of the epidemic in Germany," and that it's too early to talk about how high the death rate is. Germany currently has a comparitively low case to death ratio. "We were testing very early on," he said, suggesting that Germany's figures included more mild cases. "Another possible factor is demographic: so far in Germany we have been dealing with relatively young infected people on average."

11:30 EU leaders expressed solidarity with Spain as it struggles with an escalating coronavirus emergency. "I want you to know that we are working tirelessly to help you -- you are not alone," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.

European Council head Charles Michel said in a public letter to Spain that "Europe stands by your side in full solidarity, and we will spare no effort to help you."

11:15 Germany’s child abuse commissioner has warned that instances of abuse could go up during the coronavirus outbreak as more and more people stay at home. 

11:00 The streets of Paris have seen a 20-to-30% overall decline in air pollution since France issued its stay-at-home order on March 17, according to a report from the region’s air quality monitoring agency, Airparif. However, the lockdown did not lead to marked declines in PM2.5 and PM10 fine particulate matter, the smallest and most harmful air pollutants.

10:45 Spain recorded 738 fatalities from coronavirus over the past 24 hours, marking the biggest spike in deaths since the epidemic reached the country, its health ministry reported on Wednesday. The new figure takes Spain’s total death toll to 3,434 -- higher than China, and second in the world only to Italy. The country has also confirmed a total of 47,610 cases. Spain is currently on its 11th day of a nationwide lockdown.

10:35  The 71-year-old heir to the British throne, Charles, Prince of Wales has tested positive for coronavirus.

"The Prince of Wales has tested positive for Coronavirus," Clarence House said in a statement. "He has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual."

10:20 Governments across the globe are scrambling to counter the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. DW examines what stimulus measures have been unveiled. While the true extent of the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 outbreak is yet to be determined, what's certain is that the crisis will claim millions of jobs. But a handful of sectors may escape with minimal pain.

10:13 Mali reported its first two cases of coronavirus on Wednesday. The two patients are Malian nationals — a 49-year-old woman and a 62-year-old man, who had both traveled from France earlier this month. The government said the patients were being taken care of by the country’s health authorities.

10:10 Saudi Arabia ordered a 3 p.m. (12 p.m. UTC) curfew and full lockdown in Riyadh, Mecca and Medina. King Salman also banned leaving or circulating between any of the kingdom’s 13 regions.

10:05 Russian lawmakers are set to discuss a series of severe punishments for violators of quarantine, including up to seven years in prison and hefty fines. Fines could be set at between 500,000 rubles ($6,435; €5,939) and two million rubles for violating a quarantine.  If a violator were found guilty of causing a person’s death or intentionally infecting people, they could face up to five years in prison or up to seven years if two or more people died.

09:57 Demand for "safe phones" for Australian women facing domestic violence under a government-funded plan has surged, as lockdown measures ignite concerns over increased rates of domestic abuse. Human rights groups have said that social distancing measures and lockdowns could put women in abusive relationships in greater danger, including in Australia, where one in six women is a victim, according to official data.

09:45 The Netherlands has "probably" stopped the exponential growth of coronavirus infections, according to the Dutch Institute of Health. 

09:30 The coronavirus death toll in Iran has surpassed 2,000, with a total count of 2,077, the country’s health ministry said today. Iran reported 143 new deaths over the past 24 hours, and currently has a total of 27,017 cases.

09:10 Taiwan and China traded barbs over China’s handling of the coronavirus crisis on Wednesday, accusing each other of cover-ups and slander. Taiwan’s government accused China of intentionally curbing efforts to receive virus information directly from the World Health Organization (WHO). China has blocked Taiwan’s WHO membership, as it considers the island nation to be one of its provinces. On Tuesday, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang accused China of covering up the crisis in its early stages, and not warning the world quickly enough. That accusation was leveled again on Wednesday by Cho Jung-tai, the chairman of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). 

"Since the outbreak of the epidemic at the end of last year, China has covered it up and manipulated the WHO to pretend that everything is going well," Cho told a party meeting. 

"The Chinese Communist Party regime’s approach of maintaining stability and neglecting people’s lives and health has caused the spread of the epidemic and seriously damaged China’s carefully crafted image as a greater power," he added.

China dubbed the accusations “slander,” however, and its response to the epidemic has also been praised by the WHO. 

08:35 The number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan reached 1,000 on Wednesday, with around 100 new cases identified over the course of 12 hours, according to the country’s health ministry. Pakistan reported its first case on February 26 and has a death toll of seven. Additionally, the South Asian country announced that all domestic air travel will be suspended from Thursday until April 2. Pakistan had already suspended all international travel until April 4. According to the health minister, there are currently over 7,000 suspected cases of coronavirus in the country. 

Pakistani passengers stuck at Bangkok Airport after Pakistan suspended all international flights.
Pakistani passengers stuck at Bangkok Airport after Pakistan suspended all international flights.Image: Tanvir Shahzad/Sadia Ch

08:21 About 60,000 migrant workers living in Thailand have fled since authorities shut down malls and businesses to curb the spread of coronavirus, according to a Thai interior ministry official. Most of those migrant workers are from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, and had returned home as of Tuesday. Thailand currently has the second highest number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia, while Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha is set to invoke a state of emergency on Thursday. Images on social media showed one of Bangkok's main bus terminals packed with mostly migrant workers trying to get home. 

08:15 A government minister leading Singapore’s coronavirus task force abruptly stopped a speech and broke down in tears in parliament on Wednesday. "Please give me a minute," said Lawrence Wong, midway through thanking healthcare workers for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. Singapore has seen a sharp rise in cases, most of which were imported, over the last week, with a total of 558 infections.

08:10 The number of confirmed cases in Germany has risen to 31,554. The death toll now stands at 149 people, statistics from the Robert Koch Institute showed on Wednesday. The pandemic means crisis helplines are in higher demand than usual.

08:00 The state of Western Australia has announced restrictions on alcohol sales, in order to stop bulk buying and curb problems caused by alcohol amid coronavirus-related restrictions. Under the new regulation, each person will only be able to purchase one carton of beer, cider or pre-mixed spirits; three bottles of wine; one liter of spirits or one liter of fortified wine. The restrictions are set to apply for two weeks, but may be extended. 

"We know it’s a stressful time for our community and we don’t want people buying to excess. We have seen that happen with other foods and supplies and I have had reports of people filling shopping trolleys right up with alcohol," said Mark McGowan, the state's premier.

07:45 Despite its proximity to China, Japan hasn't seen the massive outbreak of the coronavirus that has shut down much of Europe and North America. DW looks at what the Japanese are doing differently to help slow the spread.

07:30 Hubei residents formed long queues to board crowded trains and buses on Wednesday after the Chinese province most heavily hit by the coronavirus outbreak lifted a two-month lockdown. Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, was excluded from that lifting of restrictions, however. The city’s residents will be able to travel freely by April 8.

06:38 France is set to announce a €4 billion ($4.33 billion) liquidity support plan for start-ups, digital junior minister Cedric O told French radio station Radio Classique. Early stage digital companies have grown in recent years, spurred by tax cuts and business-friendly measures imposed by President Emmanuel Macron, who hopes to turn the country into a start-up nation.

06:20 The US has announced an agreement on a $2 trillion (€1.85 trillion) federal relief package to aid workers, businesses and the healthcare system. 

"Ladies and gentleman, we are done. We have a deal," said top White House aid Eric Ueland. The package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to pay workers who must stay home.

The agreement followed days of negotiating, and the Senate and House of Representatives still need to pass the legislation before sending it to US President Donald Trump for his signature.

06:05 German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for international solidarity and warned against having a "national ego" ahead of a G7 meeting on Wednesday.

"The national efforts that are required of all of us now must not result in a spiral of national ego," Maas told the news agency dpa. "The German government's priority is to coordinate our actions with partners worldwide and to show solidarity wherever we have scope for doing so," he said. 

The foreign ministers of the G7’s seven major economies are set to hold a four-hour video conference on Wednesday afternoon, with a focus placed on managing the impacts of the virus outbreak.

05:59 Malaysia has extended its lockdown until April 14 as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the country, which has the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia. Malaysia reported 172 new cases on Wednesday, taking the total to 1,796, with 17 deaths. The original restrictions were initially set to be lifted after March 31.

05:42 Thailand has reported 107 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total up to 934. The Southeast Asian country, which was the first nation to see a coronavirus case outside of China, is set to declare a state of emergency on Thursday, giving its military-run government sweeping powers to impose curfews, censor media and further deploy the military for enforcement. 

05:31 Vietnam has halted rice exports over fears that the coronavirus outbreak, combined with a severe drought and saltwater intrusion in the Mekong Delta could lead to a food shortage, according to a government statement. 

"The Covid-19 epidemic and drought and saltwater intrusion are complicated, and so the Prime Minister is worried that Vietnam's food supply will decrease. Therefore, [Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan] Phuc has requested that rice exports be suspended and asked the country to urgently buy extra rice for stockpiling," the statement said. Vietnam is the world’s third-largest rice exporter, after India and Thailand.

05:20 Bali’s "Day of Silence" was overshadowed by virus fears on Wednesday, as many of the Indonesian island’s residents remained in self-imposed lockdown. The Hindu festival, known as Nyepi, is usually preceded by street parades featuring "Ogoh-Ogoh" effigies that are then burned as a symbol of renewal and purification.

05:06 Reports from the US say the Trump administration and the Senate have reached a deal on a "massive" coronavirus relief package.

04:47 South Korea says it will enforce 14-day quarantines on citizens and foreigners with long-term stay visas arriving from the United States, starting Friday.

02:11 China has lifted its tough restrictions on Hubei province, the original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. The reopening of Hubei comes after a months-long lockdown and China has reported no new domestic cases. Schools, however, remain closed. 

The country did register 47 new infections imported from overseas, the National Health Commission said, bringing the total to 474 imported cases – most of them Chinese nationals returning home.

02:00 Here is the latest from the Americas: 

Mexico: Deputy Health Secretary Hugo Lopez-Gatell said that businesses and organizations whose work requires people to travel between home and work sites, or be in public spaces, must stop. 

In the populous State of Mexico, which borders the capital on three sides, a long list of businesses and public spaces including daycare centers, bars, gyms and theaters, have been closed since Monday. Governor Alfredo del Mazo instructed businesses that do not sell food or pharmaceuticals to close and residents to only leave their homes for necessities. 

Mexico has registered a total of 405 coronavirus cases and five deaths. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has drawn criticism for not taking the virus seriously enough, encouraging people to go out to restaurants, despite the more stringent measures recommended by his government. 

Brazil: Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo, went into lockdown, but President Jair Bolsonaro has criticized what he sees as a "hysteria" over the coronavirus, urging that life must continue and jobs be preserved. 

Bolsonaro urged mayors and state governors to roll back lockdown measures. "We must return to normality," he said. "The few states and city halls should abandon their scorched-earth policies." 

The president claimed that the large-scale coronavirus outbreak taking place in Italy would not occur in Brazil because the country has a younger population and warmer climate. 

Brazil has registered some 2,201 cases and 46 deaths, according to government figures. 

Panama: The government has widened its existing curfew to slow the spread of coronavirus, including requiring people to be in quarantine at all hours starting today. 

President Laurentino Cortizo did not say how long the curfew would be in place, but added there would be "logical exceptions," including for health workers and certain businesses such as banks and supermarkets. 

Panama has registered 443 cases of COVID-19, with a total of eight deaths. 

Guatemala: Guatemalan lawmakers voted to extend a nationwide state of emergency due to the coronavirus for another 30 days. The country now has 21 confirmed cases of the infection, the government said. 

Paraguay: President Mario Abdo Benitez closed the country's borders until Sunday following a second death from COVID-19. 

"People can only leave, not enter," said Interior Minister Euclides Acevedo, adding that Paraguayans and residents were exempt but would face quarantine in military barracks upon return. 

Commercial airlines will not be allowed to land at Paraguayan airports during that timeframe. 

"It's a week of sacrifice, a tough week," said Acevedo. 

Ecuador: The Galapagos Islands government said four people on the archipelago had tested positive for the virus. All of them had returned to the islands from the port city of Guayaquil, the worst affected city in Ecuador with more than half of the country's confirmed cases. 

The Ecuadorian government ordered a total ban on visitors to the islands last week. The country has registered some 1,000 cases of coronavirus. 

Colombia: Thousands of Colombians rushed to return to their home cities, while others hurried to banks, supermarkets and other shops before the start of a mandatory 19-day national quarantine. President Ivan Duque has ordered Colombians to stay in their homes, blocked international and national flights and restricted the use of long-distance public transport. 

Colombians will be allowed outside under 34 exceptions which include travel for medical staff and delivery workers, while only one person per household will be allowed to go outside to buy food and medicine. 

The country has reported 306 cases of the disease and three deaths.

01:29 New Zealand announced a state of emergency on Wednesday to combat the spread of COVID-19. A nationwide lockdown will take place from midnight. The country has reported 47 new infections, bringing its confirmed total to 205.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned the number of cases will rise: "Make no mistake, this will get worse before it gets better."

01:13 Sportswear giant Nike said shoppers in key Asian markets were beginning to return to stores and online shopping. "Traffic is back," Nike Chief Executive John Donahoe said of China, adding that the same dynamic was beginning to play out in Japan and South Korea. 

"Consumers are back in the stores," he said. "They are often wearing facemasks, but they're back in the store." 

During its peak, the COVID-19 crisis in China forced the closure of 75 percent of Nike-owned stores.

Working from home

00:39 Instances of panic buying were reported across India in the aftermath of a nationwide lockdown announced on Tuesday to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Within hours of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's address to the nation announcing the lockdown, people flocked to markets to stock up on essentials.

Pharmacies and grocery stores saw people queuing up even as a lockdown was already in place in several parts of the country, including the capital, New Delhi.

Indian media reported queues at grocery stores even before Modi's speech, despite the prime minister's call for social distancing in a prior address.

After reports of panic buying, Modi took to Twitter to pacify the public.


00:30 Italy reported a rise of 743 new deaths from the novel coronavirus epidemic, after figures had declined the previous two days. The government announced harsher penalties for people who violate home confinement rules, in place since March 10. These include one to five years in prison for people leaving their homes if they have tested positive for the virus. 

00:05 India began a total lockdown at midnight local time (19:30 UTC) on Tuesday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the lockdown will be in place for the next 21 days. 

"For the next few days, forget about going out. Stay at home. Do just one thing and stay at home," Modi urged more than 1 billion people. 

The prime minister said that he called on the state and regional governments in India to focus primarily on health services. So far, the country has logged 469 active cases and 10 deaths. 

00:00 Catch up on yesterday's news here:  India announces complete lockdown

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