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Coronavirus: WHO declares coronavirus a pandemic

March 11, 2020

WHO has said COVID-19 "can be characterized as a pandemic," while experts have said the coronavirus is likely to be 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu. Follow DW for the latest coronavirus updates.

Man in full medical protective gear sprays bus
Image: Getty Images/AFPV. Simicek
  • WHO says its "deeply concerned by the alarming levels of the spread and severity of the outbreak" 
  • Italy, the worst-hit country after China, has reported a daily spike and has over 12,000 confirmed cases 
  • In Europe, there are more than 20,000 coronavirus cases and 930 people have died from the virus so far
  • Denmark describes its spike in coronavirus cases as "the most dramatic increase seen in Europe"
  • Coronavirus cases in Germany surpass the 1,500 mark

Read more: What you need to know about the coronavirus

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

00:00 This concludes our live updates on the coronavirus outbreak for the moment. More information on the outbreak is available on our page and on DW TV. Thank you for joining us.

23:25 The Californian city of San Francisco has issued an order prohibiting non-essential events of more than 1,000 people until March 25, amid fears about the risk of the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

The city's Department of Public Health, which issued the order, said there were 14 confirmed cases of the virus in the city and 99 reported cases. It said widespread testing was expected to increase in the coming days.  

22:52 Saudi Arabia reported 24 new coronavirus cases, bringing the kingdom's total to 45, the state news agency reported. The 24 new cases reportedly include two people who just came back from Iraq, a 12-year-old Saudi child who was in contact with her grandfather who came back from Iran, and 21 Egyptians who had contact with an Egyptian visitor previously reported to have the virus.

22:48 The US Capitol announced it will end public tours. However, the timeframe of the tour hiatus has not been confirmed. A Capitol official confirmed that the virus prompted a decision to temporarily stop tourist visits, although the building will remain open for legislative business.

22:46 The Mormon Church announced that it will hold a major conference in April, featuring speeches by top religious leaders, without any attendees due to the spread of coronavirus. 

22:41 Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele said that all schools in El Salvador will be closed for three weeks due to coronavirus concerns, after Panama and Peru took similar actions on Wednesday.

Bukele also ordered a ban on foreigners entering the country.

22:38 The US state of Washington has banned gatherings of over 250 people in the Seattle area. The state may also soon close all schools. 

22:22 India has suspended all tourist visa until April 15, and said it would quarantine travelers arriving from seven virus-hit countries, including China, Italy, Korea, France Spain and Germany. Diplomatic visas and visas for international organizations, employment and projects are exempt.

22:22 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to chair an emergency meeting of Britain's emergency committee, known as COBRA, on Thursday, at which he is expected to approve moving to the next phase of the response to the virus. The "delay phase" includes tougher measures to counter the outbreak.

22:20 Juventus and Italy defender Daniele Rugani has tested positive for coronavirus, the Turin club has announced. The 25-year-old "has tested positive for Coronavirus-COVID-19 and is currently asymptomatic," the Serie A champions said in a statement.

22:00 Chicago, Illinois has called off its St. Patrick's Day parade, which attracts tens of thousands of people every year. 

Meanwhile, "The Tonight Show" and other late-night talk shows in New York announced that they will tape without audiences, while CBS announced that production of the next season of "Survivor" was being postponed. 

21:53 German molecular testing company Qiagen said it was ramping up production of a chemical used in some coronavirus tests, after a report that shortages could disrupt testing in the US.

Read more: A coronavirus vaccine isn't coming very quickly

21:45 Argentina, Colombia and Peru announced that travelers from China, Italy, Spain and France would be isolated on arrival. Argentina was the first country in Latin America to register a coronavirus-related death on Saturday.

21:13 EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan has cancelled his plans to visit Canada and the US next week due to escalating coronavirus concerns, two EU officials said. Hogan had been expected to give two speeches in Washington and meet 12 other members of the World Trade Organization in Ottawa.

20:57 Panama's government has ordered the temporary closure of all schools, public and private, due to coronavirus concerns, the health minister said. 

20:56 In a televised address to the nation, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said all stores except pharmacies and food markets will be closed in response to the coronavirus outbreak. "We are preparing to close down all commercial activity, retail sales, except for basic necessities and pharmacies," Conte said. 

Services including hairdressers, beauty parlors, bars and restaurants that cannot guarantee a distance of at least one meter between customers. "We will only be able to see the effects of this great effort in a couple of weeks," he said.

The announcement comes after figures showed Italy posting the highest daily increase in deaths of any country since the coronavirus outbreak began.

20:40 Trump said he would discuss travel restrictions to Europe in a statement later on Wednesday. The US president had met with US banking industry leaders. "We made a great decision on China and Asia. They're healing and they're healing at a pretty good rate. Happy about that," Trump said. "And we could start to think about getting back involved in that part of the world."

20:04 Dow falls more than 1,400 points, or 5.9%, as investors await broader response to economic damage from the coronavirus. 

19:56 The World Figure Skating Championships scheduled to take place in Montreal next week have been cancelled due to "the risk of transmission" of coronavirus, Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann said in a news conference.

19:43 Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that from Friday all employees in the public sector with non-critical jobs and all students at schools and universities will be sent home to curb further spread of the coronavirus. All day-care facilities will be closed from Monday. Frederiksen also urged all events with more than 100 people to be cancelled. 

Denmark had 514 people diagnosed with the coronavirus as of Wednesday, surging 10-fold since Monday in what the country's Health Minister Magnus Heunicke described as the "most dramatic increase seen in Europe".

19:31 Italy is welcoming China's offer to send a team of experts to the country to share clinical data about efforts to contain COVID-19. Giovanni Rezza, the head of infectious disease at the National Institutes of Health, said Italy "had a lot to learn'' from China. China has also offered to send surplus protective gear, respirators and other equipment. 

19:14 The US State Department has decided to suspend non-essential travel due to the coronavirus and will only allow mission-critical trips, three sources familiar with the matter said according to Reuters. Trump tweeted: "I am fully prepared to use the full power of the federal government to deal with our current challenge of the coronavirus."

19:50 The UK has announced the death of a patient in their 70s, taking the number of people who have died from coronavirus in the UK to seven. Diane Wake, Chief Executive of the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust in central England said: "The Trust can confirm that a patient in their 70s being treated for underlying health conditions has died."

19:41 French Health Minister Olivier Veran reported 15 new coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, taking France's death toll from the outbreak to 48. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 2,281 — representing an increase of 497 cases on the tally reported Tuesday at 1800 GMT.

19:30 According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany has 1,567 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and three people have died from the disease so far. The German institute for infectious diseases also said that handling banknotes doesn't pose a risk of contracting coronavirus.

"Transmission through banknotes has no particular significance," RKI head Lothar Wieler told Reuters, adding that droplets from infected people were the biggest infection risk.

18:20 Brazil's Sao Paulo stock exchange suspended its operations after the Ibovespa index plunged more than 10% following the WHO's declaration of the coronavirus pandemic. 

18:10 Governor Andrew Cuomo of the US state of New York said the number of coronavirus cases in New York state has increased to 212, up from 173 the day before. The State University of New York and City University of New York will move to a distance learning model starting on March 19, Cuomo told a press conference. 

18:03 Guatemala has said the country will ban the entry of European citizens in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus. Health Minister Hugo Monroy said Wednesday that "starting tomorrow, entry by all European citizens is prohibited.'' He did not specify whether the ban is aimed at only citizens from European Union member states.

Guatemala will also ban the entry of citizens from Iran, China, South Korea and North Korea. The Central American country has yet to confirm any cases of coronavirus. 

17:59 India will suspend all tourist visas from Friday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Home Ministry has announced. "All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/international organizations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till 15th April 2020," it said in the statement.

17:32 Saudi Arabia has announced it will close cinemas over the coronavirus until further notice, according to a state news agency.

17:23  A lawmaker from Germany's Free Democratic Party (FDP) has become the first German parliamentarian to test positive for COVID-19, the German news agency DPA reported, citing the Bundestag's doctor.

17:14 Italy has reported a daily spike in new coronavirus cases. The national tally of COVID-19 cases in the country has increased to 12,462 from 10,149 on Tuesday. The increase marks the biggest daily spike since the start of the outbreak on February 20. 

17:08 Dow falls 5% as stocks plummet further after WHO declares a pandemic. 

17:07 Russia's coronavirus crisis center said Russia will suspend most flights to and from Italy, Germany, France and Spain starting from Friday. Russia will also stop issuing tourist visas to Italian citizens, the center said in a statement. 

16:57 Chief of WHO's health emergencies program Mike Ryan said in a news conference that the WHO's use of the word pandemic to describe the outbreak of COVID-19 does not change its response. He added that the situation in Iran is "very serious" and that Iran and Italy are the new frontlines of the battle against the virus.

"They're suffering but I guarantee you other countries will be in that situation soon," Ryan said. Tedros has said countries should put in place both containment and mitigation measures but that containment must be the "major pillar."

16:32 The World Health Organization (WHO) chief has said COVID-19 "can be characterized as a pandemic." Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu said the course of the pandemic can be changed "if countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response," Tedros said.

WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
"We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,'' said WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.Image: picture-alliance/Photoshot

16:30 The Trump administration is expected to discuss new travel restrictions on European countries in a meeting on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

16:20 Ireland has reported its first death from the coronavirus, Reuters reported citing the country's health ministry. 

16:00 Kuwait will halt commercial flights starting from Friday until further notice due to fears over the coronavirus.  Lebanon will halt all flights and travel to and from Italy, South Korea, China, and Iran to curb the spread of the disease, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said. Lebanon is also banning entry of passengers from France, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Spain, the UK, and Germany. Lebanese, diplomats, and NGO workers will have four days to return Lebanon.

15:52 The western German city of Bonn has decided to cancel its Beethoven festival due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. A total of ten events, originally scheduled to take place between March 13 and 22 will be cancelled, a festival spokesperson said. Those who already bought tickets for the 250th anniversary of the German composer's birth will receive compensation.

15:45 Sweden has reported its first death from the coronavirus. "The patient has had COVID-19 as well as an underlying sickness," the Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge, just outside Stockholm, said in a statement. The hospital said the elderly patient had died in intensive care.

15:06 Anthony Fauci of the US-based National Institutes of Health (NIH) has said the coronavirus is likely to be 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu. 

15:08 Ivory Coast has confirmed its first case of coronavirus. The patient is a 45-year-old Ivorian man who had recently traveled to Italy, the country's Health Ministry said in a statement.

15:07 FIFA Congress has been rescheduled due to coronavirus, FIFA said in a statement. The 70th Congress of the world soccer body will now take place on September 18 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

15:00 A Barclay's bank employee in central London has tested positive for coronavirus. Barclays' told employees who sit near the affected person to self-quarantine but is keeping the building open, according to the bank. 

14:48 Bulgaria's Health Ministry has reported first death in the country from coronavirus.

Berlin needs to act to keep businesses solvent

14:47 Malta banned travel to and from Germany, Switzerland, France and Spain to try and curb the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Robert Abela said. The ban is to go into force at midnight. Previously, the island country imposed similar restrictions on travel from Italy on Monday. Anyone who doesn't comply could face a €1,000 ($1,131) fine.

14:39 US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says Iran sanctions don't prohibit humanitarian contributions to ease coronavirus pressures in Iran. 

14:16 Some 15 parliamentary representatives and staff members belonging to Germany's Social Democrats' (SPD) have decided to go into self-quarantine, a spokesperson for the party has said. All of them recently attended a meeting with a Justice Ministry employee who later tested positive for the new coronavirus.

14:11 The White House is "working full time" on a stimulus package to negate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on consumers and businesses, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said. The US official also said that protecting the economy was "the president's number one priority."

13:42 Cricket matches in India and Sri Lanka are going ahead but players are having to pay closer attention to their on and off field behavior. Ahead of the one day internationals against South Africa, Indian fast bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar said he and his teammates have spoken about whether to apply saliva to the ball, a traditional tactic to help it swing. In Sri Lanka, England's players have been asked on not to sign autographs or take selfies with fans.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar | Cricket | Indien
Bhuvneshwar Kumar is a fast medium bowler who swings the ball both ways efficientlyImage: imago images/L. Parker

12:52 Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has suggested that German Chancellor Angela Merkel may have caused panic by saying that 60-70% of the population could be infected, according to a Czech news agency.

"I don't want to comment on the situation in Germany, although I believe that such statements rather cause panic. In any case, we have adopted strong measures for such worst-case scenarios to be out of the question," CTK quoted Babis as saying.

12:45 Honduras has announced its first two cases of COVID-19.

Health Minister Alba Consuelo Flores said one case is a 42-year-old female who traveled from Spain to Tegucigalpa. The pregnant woman was asymptomatic when she arrived March 4 and is in a stable condition in hospital.

The other person infected is a 37-year-old female who traveled from Switzerland to San Pedro Sula on March 5. She has been in self-isolation at home since arriving back in the country.

12:44 Albania has recorded its first death from COVID-19.

12:28 The first German professional football player to be diagnosed with COVID-19 is Timo Hübers who plays for club Hannover 96. The defender "has had no contact with his teammates since the infection," the second division club tweeted, though not ruling out that other players may have been infected. He will go into quarantine.

11:30 NATO has halted an Arctic military exercise that was set to take place near Russia. A total of 14,000 troops from 10 countries were meant to take part in the Norway-led drill.

11:16 The memorial to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland will close to visitors for several weeks.

11:04 A British woman in Bali has become the first confirmed fatality from COVID-19 in Indonesia.

11:01 Italian factories belonging to car manufacturer Fiat Chrysler will be halted, while Jaguar Land Rover in the UK reported a case at one of its factories.

10:57 Measures to counter the effects of coronavirus must be exempt from fiscal targets, Greece's government spokesman Steliod Petsas has said.

10:46 Authorities have reported a third death from coronavirus in Germany.

The death was recorded in the Heinsberg district where some of the first German cases were reported, in the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

There are over 1,500 cases reported throughout Germany.

10:43 Ahead of the UK budget, to be announced later on Wednesday, British Chancellor Rishi Sunak told minister that his new measures would make Britain "one of the best placed economies to tackle the impact of coronavirus.

10:30 German Chancellor Angela Merkel is giving a press conference on the German government's response to the outbreak.

Read more: Coronavirus: Germany's Merkel urges 'solidarity and reason'

"We must all understand that coronavirus has arrived in Europe," she said. This is the first time she has directly spoken to the media over the outbreak.

"When the virus is out there, the population has no immunity and no therapy exists, then 60 to 70% of the population will be infected," she told a news conference in Berlin. "The process has to be focused on not overburdening the health system by slowing the virus's spread."

10:29 Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Wednesday that Rome is allocating an additional €25 billion ($28.3 billion) to tackle COVOD-19.

At least 631 Italians have died.

10:21 Poland will close down schools, universities and cultural institutions, introducing an "effective quarantine," ministers have announced.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki urged parents to keep their children at home and refrain from giving handshakes.

10:05 Italy is setting aside €25 billion ($28.3 billion) to help its economy through the coronavirus outbreak.

09:46 Ukraine's capital Kiev is closing all schools and universities until the end of March, said city mayor Vitali Klitschko. The city also plans to restrict mass events, including conferences and concerts. 

09:36 Anyone traveling to Beijing from outside of China will be quarantined for 14 days, reported Chinese state media People's Daily. People on short-term business trips will be required to stay at designated hotels and take a virus test.

09:10 Austrian train company ÖBB said it is no longer running a passenger service to Italy. After consultation with authorities, international freight train traffic will be maintained. A total of 206 people have tested positive for the virus in Austria.

08:57 Belgium confirmed its first fatality from coronavirus. Health Minister Maggie De Block said the victim was 90 years old.

08:02 The Bank of England cut its interest rates from 0.75% to 0.25% to bolster Britain's economy in response to COVID-19. The Bank of England said the measures were to "help to support business and consumer confidence at a difficult time."

London: Bank of England
The Bank of England slashed its interest rates to help the economy through the slump caused by coronavirusImage: Reuters/H. McKay

07:30 "Saying we will close all the borders and then the virus will pass us by won't work," German Health Minister Jens Spahn told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. "The virus is here in Germany, this is the reality we must get used to."

07:19 Thailand's Interior Ministry announced its is canceling its grant of visa on arrival for 18 countries.

On the list are: Bulgaria, Bhutan, China (including Taiwan), Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and the Pacific island Republic of Vanuatu. 

Thailand is also canceling its visa exemptions for South Korea, Italy and Hong Kong.

05:46 The provincial government of Hubei province, the epicenter of the virus, said people employed in key sectors such as public transport, medical supply, and daily necessities can return to work. People employed in industries that impact national or global supply chains can also return to work with permission from relevant authorities.

05:30 The Italian government placed the entire country on lockdown on Tuesday. The measures have had dire consequences for the tourism industry in some regions.

05:15 The UK parliament confirmed its first case of the COVID-19 virus after Health Minister Nadine Dorries said she tested positive for the virus. 

04:55 A man has been pulled alive from the rubble of a collapsed coronavirus quarantine hotel after being trapped there for 69 hours. A 10-year-old boy and his mother were pulled alive from the wreckage a few hours earlier. 

A hotel in southeastern China was being used to quarantine people exposed to coronavirus when it collapsed, killing at least 27 people. Two people are still unaccounted for. 

04:35 Coronavirus cases in the US topped 1,000 on Tuesday, nearly twice the number of cases from the day before. At least 28 people have died.

The surge in the number of cases can be explained by a shift in testing from federal labs to state ones. 

Health experts have criticized the government for a diagnostic strategy that targeted too few people initially, allowing the disease to spread undetected. 

US Vice President Mike Pence defended the government's response. He said that "a million tests are in the field."

04:20 Confused about coronavirus conspiracy theories? This isn't the first time diseases and disinformation have crossed paths. Read about other examples from history here

04:00  Several events commemorating the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan 9 years ago were canceled on Wednesday over fears of worsening the coronavirus outbreak.

Around 18,500 people in Japan were killed when on March 11, 2011 a severe earthquake hit the Tohoku region in the southeast. A deadly tidal wave followed shortly after.  

In place of the annual memorial service, Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe said his office would observe a minute of silence today. 

03:35 Two charter planes evacuated 361 Taiwan nationals from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus, late Tuesday night and early Wednesday. After arriving in Taipei, the passengers were sent to three different quarantine centers, where they will spend the next 14 days under observation, Taiwan's health and welfare minister said. 

Taiwan has thus far reported 48 cases of COVID-19, including 1 death. 

03:15 According to the Associated Press, the governor of the state of Washington is planning to ban events of more than 250 people in the state capital, Seattle.

02:40 Chinese officials have said that the slight rise in the number of new infections in the country on Tuesday is due to cases brought back from abroad and not from new transfers within the country. 

In Hubei Province, where the outbreak began, the number of new infections has fallen for the past six days. All 16 temporary hospitals constructed in the city of Wuhan to accommodate the the surge in coronavirus patients have since been closed. 

A temporary hospital in Wuhan after all patients have been dispatched
Medical workers clear the facilities in one of Wuhan's temporary hospitals. All 16 makeshift hospitals have now closed after all patients were dispatched. Image: picture-alliance/F. Maohua

02:20 In Italy, the coronavirus death toll rose by 168 on Tuesday to a total of 631 fatalities nationwide. It was the country's largest spike in absolute numbers since the Italian outbreak was reported on February 21. 

01:45 The Olympic Flame lighting ceremony will be held without spectators after dozens of people in southern Greece tested positive for coronavirus.

The Greek Olympic Committee said that only 100 accredited guests from the International Olympic Committee will attend the ceremonial lighting of the flame that will burn at the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo. Originally, 700 people had been expected to attend the event to be held in Olympia, Greece on Thursday. 

Traditionally, the Olympic flame is carried on a torch relay through Greece prior to being handed over to the organizers of that year's games. 

01:25 South Korea reported 242 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, for a total of 7,755 infections nationwide. It was the country's first rise in new cases in five days. 

South Korea is among the countries most affected by the outbreak, following behind China, Iran, and Italy in terms of total cases. 

01:11 The Premier League has announced that Wednesday's soccer match between Manchester City and Arsenal has been postponed "as a cautionary measure" and squad members also went into self-isolation. This is the first match in the top competition to be called off due to coronavirus.

The decision was taken after Arsenal players came into contact with a rival team owner who announced Tuesday that he had contracted COVID-19. 

01:05 Mainland China confirmed 24 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, up from 19 the day before. Twenty-two deaths were reported, all in the central province of Hubei, where the COVID-19 outbreak originated

00:52 The health ministry in Panama has reported the country's first death linked to coronavirus, one day after reporting the first confirmed case of the virus in the country. The government is suspending mass gatherings like concerts and sporting events to slow the outbreak. 

00:40 Beijing has reported 6 new coronavirus infections in the city, all of them imported from Italy. 

00:16  Japan on Tuesday reported its biggest one-day rise in new infections, with 59 new cases confirmed. The country now has 1,278 diagnoses of COVID-19. Nearly 700 of them were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined for two weeks last month. 

00:12 Australia will implement a travel ban for Italy starting Wednesday evening Australian time. Entry to Australia will be barred to all non-residents traveling from Italy. Resident arrivals will be required to undergo 14 days in quarantine.

The move came a day after Rome put severe restrictions on mass gatherings and domestic travel in Italy. The country has reported over 460 deaths due to coronavirus. 

00:10 Here's a recap of the global figures: 

  • 118,903 global cases (80,761 within mainland China)
  • 4,269 global deaths (3,136 within mainland China)
  • 65,110 recovered

00:05 The US government plans to meet with the heads of global technology companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft to discuss the coronavirus epidemic, the Washington Post reports. 

00:01 Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised A$2.4 billion  (US$1.6 billion, €1.4 billion) to combat the spread of coronavirus. 

mvb, ed, jsi, kmm, kp/rc (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters, EFE)

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