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Coronavirus updates: WHO praises Italy's sacrifices

March 8, 2020

Italy has imposed restrictions on mobility and assembly in the region of Lombardy and more than a dozen provinces. Public health authorities across Europe are struggling to contain the outbreak. Follow DW for the latest.

An Italian army checkpoint for coronavirus in Codogno, Lombardy, Italy
Image: picture-alliance/abaca/C. Cozzoli
  • Italy puts northern regions in quarantine
  • Every EU member except Cyprus has infections
  • US death toll hits 21
  • Saudi Arabia shuts down entire region

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

00:13 Mainland China reported 40 new cases and 22 deaths by the end of March 8. Hubei province, which has been the epicenter of the infection, reported 36 new cases and 21 deaths. 

00:04 Britain's government has set up a team to tackle 'interference and disinformation around the spread of coronavirus. The team would try to establish the extent and impact of false information aimed at misleading people, "either for the purposes of causing harm, or for political, personal, or financial gain."

22:51 Saudi Arabia has suspended travel to and from the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, South Korea, Egypt, Italy, and Iraq. Entry of people from those nations, or anyone who has been there within the past 14 days has been suspended.

Pilgrims wearing masks at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has suspended travel to and from 9 countries.Image: Getty Images/AFP/A. Ghani Bashir

22:47 The number of confirmed cases in the US has crossed 500, as the virus has reached around 30 states. Two more deaths have been reported, bringing the toll to 21. President Trump praised the White House preparedness in a tweet, where he criticized media for making the government 'look bad.' 

22:29 Bangladesh postponed an event  celebrating the nation's independence movement leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. A rally scheduled for March 17, with foreign leaders like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been postponed. The country has detected its first three cases of coronavirus. 

21:33 A third patient in England who tested positive for coronavirus has died, according to England's chief medical officer Chris Whitty. "The patient, who was being treated at the North Manchester General Hospital, was over 60 years old and had significant underlying health conditions. They had recently traveled from an affected area. Contact tracing is already underway," Whitty's statement read.

21:19 Canada has secured a plane to repatriate its citizens onboard the Grand Princess cruise ship that is due to dock in California after cases of the new coronavirus were discovered on the vessel, the Canadian government said. The plane will take them from San Francisco to the Canadian forces Base Trenton in Ontario, after which they will be assessed and put under a 14-day quarantine, the statement said. 

21:12 One Italian prisoner is dead and several others injured following revolts over new rules introduced to contain the coronavirus outbreak, a prison rights group said. The new measures include restrictions on family visitations.

20:12 Qatar has banned arrivals from 14 countries over coronavirus fears. The ban covers China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria and Thailand. Qatar Airways has already suspended flights to and from Italy. 

20:05 Saudi Arabia has announced the suspension of all educational and Koranic activities inside the kingdom's mosques, according to state television.

20:03 New York City could at some point have hundreds of positive coronavirus cases, said Mayor Bill De Blasio.

19:51 Portugal's 71-year-old president said that he has canceled all public activities and will stay at home. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa recently received a group of students from a school which has been closed following the detection of a student with COVID-19. Portugal currently has 25 cases, and no deaths.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (center) poses with Angolan President Joao Lourenco (left)
Image: DW/J. Carlos

19:42 France has banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people in a bid to contain the virus. Earlier in the day, German Health Minister Jens Spahn also highly recommended canceling events of the same size. "Coronavirus has been in Germany since Wednesday last week. Our priority now is to slow its spread," Spahn said on Twitter. "The slower the virus spreads, the better the healthcare system can cope."

19:32 The largest school district in Northern California in the US has canceled classes for a week after it was discovered that a family in the district had been exposed to COVID-19. Governor Gavin Newsom warned that more closures are likely as the virus spreads.

19:17 A prominent Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. is suspending all of its activities after announcing that one of its senior leaders was the first person in the US capital to test positive for coronavirus. Reverend Timothy Cole, the church rector, was in stable condition after being hospitalized on Saturday night.

"Out of an abundance of caution, Christ Church has canceled all activities including church services until further notice. We recommend that concerned community members contact their health providers," a church statement said.

19:06 Saudi Arabia has postponed the Saudi Games, the kingdom's largest event, until further notice over coronavirus fears, according to Al-Arabiya.

19:01 Inmates in four Italian prisons have revolted over the country's measures to tackle the virus, including a ban on family visits, a prison officers union said. At one prison near Bologna, two wardens were injured and around 20 staff members had to leave the prison after inmates revolted. The prison is now being guarded by police officers, the Ansa news agency reported.

Relatives of inmates gather outside Poggorieale prison in Naples, Italy
Relatives of inmates gather outside Poggorieale prison in Naples, ItalyImage: Reuters/C. de Luca

In a prison south of Rome, police were called after about a hundred prisoners barricaded themselves into a section of the prison. The inmates drew up a list of demands, including the right to have visits from loved ones, and tried to negotiate with prison management, Agi news agency reported.

Relatives of inmates gather outside Poggioreale prison in Naples, Italy
Image: Reuters/C. de Luca

18:48 Saudi Arabia has announced the suspension of schools, universities and educational institutions over coronavirus fears from Monday, state media quoted the education minister as saying. The country's education minister Hamad Al-Sheikh has ordered the setup of virtual schools and distance learning mechanisms. 

18:12 The US state of Oregon has announced seven new coronavirus cases, bringing the state's total to 14. Oregon has also declared a 60-day state of emergency over the virus. 

17:41 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was considering broadening entry restrictions to include travelers from all countries. He said that if taken, the measure would require anyone arriving in Israel to go into home quarantine for 14 days and that a decision would be made on Monday. The move would effectively cut off all foreign tourism. Israel already requires self-quarantine for travelers arriving from 15 countries.

People wearing masks are seen inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City
People wearing masks are seen inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old CityImage: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/A. Widak

17:41 Italy is ordering 22 million surgical masks, its civil protection agency said. 

17:21 Italy's death roll rose to 366 from 233 the day before, while the number of infections rose by 1,492 to 7,375 according to health officials. The spike in cases marks the biggest single-day record in Italy and came hours after Rome imposed draconian measures to quarantine a quarter of the population. Italy is now second to China in terms of the number of virus cases.

17:12 France has recorded 1,126 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 19 deaths in total, according to health officials.

17:05 The US capital has confirmed its first case of coronavirus. A man in his 50s tested positive in Washington, D.C., while another person who traveled through the city tested positive in Maryland, officials said. The man in Washington, D.C. was admitted to a local hospital on Thursday and appeared to have no history of international travel and no close contacts to any other confirmed cases across the US, according to District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser.

16:50 The global coronavirus death toll now stands at 3,600. 

16:32 At least 10 people were killed in the collapse of a hotel used as a coronavirus quarantine facility in eastern China, authorities said on Sunday. Twenty-three others are feared trapped in the rubble.

Rescuers pulled 48 people from the wreckage, of whom 38 are still alive, the Ministry of Emergency Management said. The hotel in the coastal city of Quanzhou had been repurposed to house people who recently had contact with coronavirus-positive patients. The city has recorded 47 cases of the virus. 

A worker wearing a face mask rescues a child at the site where a hotel being used to quarantine people collapsed
A worker wearing a face mask rescues a child at the site where a hotel being used to quarantine people collapsedImage: Reuters/China Daily

16:27 Egypt's Health Ministry has confirmed the country's first coronavirus death. The victim is a 60-year-old German national, said ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed. The man landed in Egypt one week ago and had a high temperature after arriving in Hurghada from the city of Luxor.  

16:06 Iraq confirmed two more deaths due to coronavirus, taking the total number to six, the state news agency reported on Sunday.

16:04 Alitalia, Italy's flag carrier, said it will suspend all national and international services to and from Milan Malpensa Airport as of March 9. The carrier will only operate domestic flights to and from Milan Linate Airport, and will serve international routes from Rome Airport.

15:43 Iraq has confirmed two deaths due to coronavirus, according to its state news agency.

15:31 The US state of New York has confirmed 105 coronavirus cases, up from 89 on Saturday.

15:16 International Women's Day demonstrations, which saw thousands take to the streets around the world, went ahead despite coronavirus fears that forced the postponement or cancellation of several large events. "I don’t care about coronavirus right now, I'm more worried about being raped or murdered because I'm a woman," a demonstrator told DW's Kyra Levine at the Berlin Women's Day march.

14:50 Britain's biggest supermarket Tesco confirmed it had introduced a restriction on bulk buying of several products in all of its stores and online. Customers will be limited to buying five units of items such as anti-bacterial gels and wipes, dried pasta and UHT milk.

14:45 Two Italian Serie A football matches kicked off without spectators despite calls from the country's sports minister and players' association president to suspend the games altogether. Three other Serie A matches were scheduled for later on Sunday, again without fans in the stadia.

The Parma vs Spal Serie A match is held in Parma, Italy without spectators.
The Parma vs Spal Serie A match is held in Parma, Italy without spectators.Image: picture-alliance/Zuma/P. Cruciatti

14:30 Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn has recommended canceling events with more than 1,000 participants in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. Germany has so far at least 847 confirmed cases, according to the Robert Koch Institute, the official disease control institute.

Meanwhile, German Football League managing director Christian Seifert hinted that spectators could, like Italy, be banned from German games or that matches could be postponed, but said the fixture list must not be cut short.

"There is no question that the season must be played through mid-May to determine players for international competitions. This is the only way for clubs and DFL to have planning certainty for the coming season," Seifert said in a statement.

14:29 Egyptian crew and foreign passengers on a Nile cruise ship on which 45 suspected novel coronavirus cases had been detected disembarked on Sunday in the southern city of Luxor. The 45 suspected victims will be quarantined, although 11 of them tested negative for the virus, Egypt's health ministry said.

People wear protective masks in Cairo, Egypt (picture alliance / NurPhoto)
People wear protective masks in Cairo, EgyptImage: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/I. Safwat

14:29 The number of coronavirus cases in the UK has risen to 273, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

14:00 El Salvador has banned visitors from Germany and France due to COVID-19, after previously barring visitors from Italy, South Korea and Iran, countries with the largest outbreaks outside China. Germany now has the fifth-highest number of coronavirus cases outside China, while France ranks sixth. 

12:49 Saudi Arabia will lock down the Shiite-majority Qatif region due to an outbreak. Work will stop in all but the most vital public and private sectors, the state news agency reported.

"Given that all 11 recorded positive cases of the new coronavirus are from Qatif... it has been decided... to temporarily suspend entry and exit from Qatif," the interior ministry said in a statement.

12:45 The pope has voiced his support for coronavirus victims during a livestreamed prayer and message. 

The 83-year-old recorded a message from the Vatican library, which was broadcast live on a screen on Saint Peter's Square. The decision was meant to discourage people from gathering in front of his window on Saint Peter's Square, however people instead gathered to watch the screens. 

Nonetheless, he still appeared at his window and waved for a few moments to the crowd.

Spectators watch Pope Francis deliver the Angelus prayer on a giant screen, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican on Sunday
Spectators watch Pope Francis deliver the Angelus prayer on a giant screen, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican on SundayImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Medichini

12:41 The European Central Bank in Frankfurt has ordered its 3,500 employees to work from home to test how it would cope if the coronavirus outbreak worsens in Germany. It has canceled most public events in the next months, but will go ahead with its rate-setting decision on Thursday.

11:27 The World Health Organization has commended Italy for its "genuine sacrifices" after its move to quarantine a quarter of the country. 

"The government & the people of Italy are taking bold, courageous steps aimed at slowing the spread of the #coronavirus & protecting their country & world," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a tweet.

"They are making genuine sacrifices. @WHO stands in solidarity with Italy & is here to continue supporting you."

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has agreed to strictly limit movement in and out of the north, including Venice and the financial capital Milan, for nearly a month. The region is home to 15 million people.

The decree only allows people with a "serious," unpostponable reason to leave. But it does allow for people who live elsewhere, such as tourists, to leave. 

10:41 Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated countries in the world, has recorded its first cases. Three people between the ages of 20 and 35, two of whom recently returned from Italy, tested positive.

10:39 At least 49 more people died from COVID-19 in Iran, authorities have reported. There are 6,566 confirmed cases in the country and a total of 194 people have died.

10:11 The head of Italy's Piedmont region, Alberto Cirio, has tested positive for coronavirus, according to state broadcaster RAI. If confirmed, he would be the second regional president to fall ill in just 24 hours.

The area around the northern city of Turin is the fourth-worst hit region in Italy. On Saturday, the governor of Lazio, the region around Rome, announced he had been infected. 

Albert Cirio, Piedmont governor, is interviewed in Turin, Italy in February
Albert Cirio, Piedmont governor, is interviewed in Turin, Italy in February Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Alpozzi

10:08 German Health Minister Jens Spahn has called for more large public events to be canceled to help control the spread of the virus. Authorities have been criticized for allowing large sporting events such as the Bundesliga to continue while other countries have already halted public matches.

"Safety comes first," Spahn wrote on Twitter. He said he understood that canceling events could damage businesses, especially smaller ones and called for support for such businesses.

"We have to consider swift and targeted support," for such businesses, Spahn wrote. 

Government leaders will meet later today to discuss a response to the crisis. Germany has at least 847 confirmed cases, according to the Robert Koch Institute, the official disease control institute.

Business newspaper Handelsblatt reports that leaders are considering easing regulations to enable short-time work, as happened during the financial crisis. They may also consider relieving companies with short-time work of having to pay social security contributions.

Other proposals include bringing forward a planned reduction in the solidarity tax, introduced to help reunification of the country. 

09:00 The death toll from the so-called coronavirus hotel has jumped to 10. A hotel that had been converted into a quarantine facility in the Chinese city of Quanzhou collapsed on Saturday evening. 

08:52 The Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has called on Italy to ban its citizens from traveling through Europe.

"I think it's important that Prime Minister (Giuseppe) Conte calls on all Italians not to leave Italy at all," the billionaire populist said. 

"It's clear that Italy, unfortunately, doesn't have it under control," Babis said, also calling on Czechs who are currently in Italy to return home.

08:26 Bulgaria has now reported its first four cases. That means every European Union member state, except for Cyprus, has reported cases of COVID-19. Tensions have erupted in ethnically-divided Cyprus after it closed the border with the breakaway Turkish side to control infection fears.

Read more: Cyprus: Protesters, police clash at closed checkpoint

08:15 The Bahrain Grand Prix has announced that it will be contestant only. On Saturday it halted ticket sales for the March 20-22 event, which has capacity for 70,000 spectators. So far, 85 people in Bahrain have been infected, four of whom recovered. It recently asked all recent travelers to Lebanon, Egypt, Italy, or South Korea to self-quarantine for two weeks.

07:45 Moldova has recorded its first case of COVID-19, with a 48-year-old woman being hospitalized after a recent trip to Italy, according to the health ministry. Its neighbors have both previously reported cases: Ukraine has at least one infection and Romania at least 11. 

06:11 The US cruise ship Grand Princess will dock in Oakland, US media is reporting. The ship has been stranded off the coast of San Francisco. US Vice President Mike Pence previously announced that all 3,533 passengers and crew would be tested for COVID-19 after news that 21 out of 45 people tested on board had the virus. The infections have prompted fears of a repeat of its sister vessel, the Diamond Princess, which had about 700 coronavirus infections among its 3,711 passengers and crew, resulting in at least seven deaths.

Read more: What you need to know about the coronavirus

05:16 Italy has now closed cinemas, theaters, museums across the country. This comes on top of placing a quarter of its population under strict quarantine.

04:21 Four people have died in the collapse of a hotel in Quanzhou, China. It was being used as a quarantine facility for individuals suspected of having coronavirus. Local media said 49 had already been rescued from the building which collapsed on Saturday. 

03:49 North Korea has released more than 3,600 people who were quarantined. The country, which insists they have not had a single case of the virus, has imposed strict restrictions and closed its borders. Tourists have been banned and international trains and flights have been suspended.

02:19 The Arctic Winter Games have been canceled amid coronavirus concerns. The games, which were to start on March 16, are known as a celebration of sports and culture from the circumpolar world. 

02:09 Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed that the region of Lombardy and a dozen other provinces in northern Italy will be on lockdown.

Read more:  Italy mulls region-wide coronavirus quarantine in Lombardy

Giuseppe Conte confirmed a lockdown in northern Italy.
Italian PM Giuseppe Conte confirmed a lockdown in northern Italy.Image: Reuters/R. Casilli

01:11 US President Donald Trump said he was not concerned about the virus getting closer to the capital city of Washington DC. "We've done a great job," he said, adding that he would continue to have "tremendous rallies." 

00:57 A US Marine has been infected with the virus. This is the third US military member to be afflicted. The Marine in the Washington DC area had recently returned from overseas travel. 

00:43 China reported 27 more deaths on Sunday, with 44 new cases of the infection. Only three of the cases were outside the Hubei province, which has been the virus epicenter.

00:37 The death toll in the United States reached 19 on Saturday as two more people died in Washington state. The state of New York declared a state of emergency. A cruise ship is currently stranded outside San Francisco, with infected passengers. 

00:33 The Italian government is considering putting the Lombardy region and nearby provinces in quarantine, including the cities of Milan, Venice and Modena. The coronavirus death toll in Italy had risen to 233, he added. Those who died due to complications from contracting the virus were on average above the age of 80, predominantly male and had two or more underlying health issues.

Read more: Italy mulls region-wide coronavirus quarantine in Lombardy

00:24 A 64-year-old patient in Argentina died due to the coronavirus, the first such death in Latin America.

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sri, aw, tg/mm (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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