Global death toll from coronavirus is 6,000, with more than 145,000 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization, which declared the outbreak a pandemic.

A tram crosses a virtually deserted street, amidst concerns over Spain's coronavirus outbreak, in the Basque city of Vitoria, Spain, on March 14, 2020.
A tram crosses a virtually deserted street, amidst concerns over Spain's coronavirus outbreak, in the Basque city of Vitoria, Spain, on March 14, 2020. (Reuters)

Saturday, March 14, 2020 

Wife of Spain’s PM tests positive for virus

Spain’s government said Saturday that the wife of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The government said Begona Gomez and the prime minister are in good health.

Two ministers of Sanchez’s Cabinet, the minister of equality and the minister of regional affairs, had already tested positive earlier this week.

The other members of the Cabinet have tested negative.

Earlier in the day, Spain’s government announced that it is placing tight restrictions on movements and closing restaurants and other establishments in the nation of 46 million people as part of a two-week state of emergency to fight the sharp rise in coronavirus infections.

“From now we enter into a new phase,” Sanchez said. “We won’t hesitate in doing what we must beat the virus. We are putting health first.”

After the prime minister spoke, people broke into a long round of applause from balconies in Madrid and Barcelona, with some firing off fireworks, in response to a call on social media for a show of support for the country's doctors and nurses. Others joined in, relieved that the government was taking more action.

Sanchez added that all police forces, including those run by local authorities, will be put under the orders of the Interior Minister and that the armed forces are on stand-by.

“At any moment, when it is necessary, we can count on the deployment of the armed forces. The army is ready,” Sanchez said.

Read more: Spain declares emergency

Virus death toll in Italy rises to 1,441

The death toll in Italy's coronavirus outbreak rose to 1,441 on Saturday, up almost 14 percent from the 1,266 total reported a day earlier, the civil protection authority said on Saturday.

The total number of cases rose to 21,157 from 17,660, the authority said. Italy remains the worst affected country in Europe and second only to China, where the highly infectious virus first emerged.

The agency said 1,966 patients had recovered from the disease, which broke out in the north of the country on February 21, compared to 1,439 the day before.

The number of patients in intensive care rose to 1,518 against a previous 1,328.

Read more: Italy faces first weekend under shutdown

France closes all restaurants, cafes, and shops

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on Saturday that France is shutting down all restaurants, cafes, cinemas and non-essential retail shops, starting Sunday, to face the accelerated spread of the virus in the country.
He said grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and other public services including transport will be allowed to remain open.

French authorities had already shut down all schools, banned gatherings of more than 100 people and advised people to limit their social life. Philippe said these measures were “not well implemented.”

“We must show all together more discipline,” he added.

Philippe confirmed that nationwide municipal elections will go ahead as planned on Sunday but with special measures to keep people at a safe distance.

Health authorities said more than 4,500 cases had been confirmed in France as of Saturday, including 91 deaths.

Turkey confirms sixth coronavirus case

Turkey reported on Saturday one more coronavirus case, raising its tally to six.
"Unfortunately, the coronavirus test of a citizen who returned from Umrah in the last week turned out to be positive," said Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Twitter.

Umrah is the Islamic pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca that Muslims can undertake at any time of the year.

Stressing the importance of a 14-day quarantine rule, Koca warned those who came from overseas not to come in contact with others.

He said passing medical screening does not mean zero risk.

Georgia to postpone primaries over virus

Georgia's March 24 presidential primaries will be postponed until May because of fears over the new coronavirus, state election officials announced on Saturday, a day after Louisiana also pushed back its primaries.

In-person early voting, which began statewide March 2, will be halted and the election will be moved to May 19, when Georgia’s other 2020 primary elections are being held, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement Saturday.

In addition to public safety, one of the biggest considerations was the risk the virus posed to poll worker s, who are often older, election officials said.

“Events are moving rapidly and my highest priority is protecting the health of our poll workers, and the community at large,” Raffensperger said.

The action followed Republican Governor Brian Kemp’s signature of an emergency declaration that unlocked sweeping powers to fight COVID-19. In a speech Saturday, the governor renewed a call for places of worship, schools and others to consider cancelling large gatherings as cases in the state rise.

On Friday, Louisiana became the first state to postpone its presidential primaries due to the virus.

Spanish PM confirms lockdown over coronavirus

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez confirmed a 15-day nationwide lockdown on Saturday as part of state of emergency measures to control the spread of the coronavirus.

He said the coronavirus crisis requires "extraordinary decisions".

The decision comes as Spain's coronavirus death toll reached 193 on Saturday, up from 120 on Friday, public broadcaster TVE said.

There are just over 6,250 coronavirus cases across the country, TVE said, up from 4,209 on Friday and also up from 5,753 cases reported earlier in the day. 

Sanchez added that all police forces, including those run by local authorities, will be put under the orders of the Interior Minister and that the armed forces could be deployed it necessary.

According to the government decree, people will only be allowed to leave their homes to buy food and medicine, commute to work, go to medical centres and banks, or take trips related to the care for the young and the elderly. 

Spain to impose nationwide lockdown

The Spanish government will put the country under lockdown as part of its state of emergency measures meant to combat the coronavirus, several media including El Mundo and Cadena Ser reported on Saturday.

The government will say all Spaniards must stay home except to buy food or drugs, go to the hospital, go to work or other emergencies, El Mundo reported.

The paper reports Spain's Interior Ministry will control all police forces, including local and regional ones, as part of the state of emergency.

The government said the cabinet meeting that is due to decide on the measures was still ongoing.

Trump takes coronavirus test, extends travel ban to Britain, Ireland

President Donald Trump has taken a coronavirus test but said on Saturday that his temperature was "totally normal", and his administration extended a travel ban to Britain and Ireland to try to contain a pandemic that has shut down much of the daily routine of American life.

After White House officials took the unprecedented step of checking the temperatures of journalists entering the briefing room, Trump told reporters he took a test for the virus on Friday night and that he expects the results in "a day or two days."

He met with a Brazilian delegation last week, at least one member of which has since tested positive.

The top US infectious diseases expert, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, said the country has recorded 2,226 case of the new coronavirus, but has not yet reached the peak of the outbreak.

Afghanistan closes educational institutions

Afghanistan on Saturday announced the closure of all educational institutions to stem the coronavirus pandemic.

The country’s health and education ministries announced that the ongoing winter holidays would be extended for one more month until April 21 to contain the outbreak.

With the total number of confirmed cases surging to 11, Afghanistan cancelled all sports events.

Qatar, UAE restrict visas as part of measures to contain virus

The United Arab Emirates and Qatar announced on Saturday restrictions on visas, as part of measures to contain the new coronavirus outbreak.

The UAE will suspend visa issuance starting March 17, the official news agency WAM reported, citing immigration authorities, adding that foreign diplomats would be exempted.

Qatar will on Sunday stop issuing visas on arrival to several European nationalities, the government communication office said. 

Spain counts 1,500 new coronavirus cases in one day

Spain confirmed more than 1,500 new cases of coronavirus between Friday and Saturday raising its total to 5,753 cases, the second-highest number in Europe after Italy.

The country was expected to declare a state of alert on Saturday to try to mobilise resources to combat the virus, which has so far killed 136 people in Spain.

Philippines declares curfew in Manila to fight coronavirus

Philippine officials on Saturday announced a nighttime curfew in the capital and said people in the densely populated region should leave their homes during the daytime only for work or urgent errands under restrictions imposed to fight the coronavirus.

Iran says virus kills another 97, pushing death toll to 611

The death toll from coronavirus infections in Iran rose on Saturday to 611, state TV said, citing a health ministry official who put the total number of those diagnosed with the disease at 12,729.

Iran, one of the countries most affected by the pandemic outside China, reported on Friday a death toll of 514 and a total of 11,364 infections.

Sri Lanka's confirmed cases rises to 7 

Sri Lanka's Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi confirmed on Saturday to local media that the number of cases in the island nation has risen to 7.

Indonesia's coronavirus cases rise to 96

Indonesia reported 27 more coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of confirmed infection to 96 in the Southeast Asian country, Achmad Yurianto, a health ministry official said on Saturday.

The total number of deaths from coronavirus rose to five, Yurianto said.

Cases were found in several cities across the archipelago, including the capital Jakarta, some cities in western and central Java, Manado city on Sulawesi island and Pontianak on Borneo island, he said. 

Philippines confirms 34 new coronavirus cases, full tally at 98

The Philippines reported on Saturday an additional 34 confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing total to 98 ahead of the implementation of quarantine measures in the capital Manila.

It marked the largest single-day increase in confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian nation, which has eight coronavirus deaths.

Details of the new cases are being validated and authorities are verifying reports of additional cases, Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a news conference.

Namibia suspends travel to three countries

Namibian President Hage Geingob on Saturday suspended travel to and fom Qatar, Ethiopia and Germany with immediate effect for a period of 30 days following the country's first coronavirus cases.

Namibia reported its first two cases of coronavirus with a Spanish couple who arrived in the Southern African country on Wednesday both testing positive and quarantined, Health Minister Kalumbi Shangula said.

The government would continue with plans to celebrate Namibia's Independence Day on March 21, Shangula told a press conference. 

Norway advises against all foreign travel amid virus outbreak

Norway advised its citizens not to travel to any foreign country for the next month, while Norwegians currently abroad should consider returning home as soon as possible amid the coronavirus outbreak, the foreign ministry said.

The spread of the virus, and the risk that other nations will restrict travel, made the recommendation necessary, the ministry added.

US House of Representatives passes coronavirus relief package

The US House of Representatives early Saturday overwhelmingly passed a coronavirus relief package for Americans hit by the outbreak.

The measure passed by 363 votes to 40 and will now move to the Senate. 

President Donald Trump tweeted his support for the bill before the vote and urged both Republicans and Democrats to back it.

"This Bill will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers," Trump tweeted, adding that he had directed the Treasury and Labor secretaries to issue regulations to ensure small businesses would not be hurt by the measures.

Thailand reports seven new coronavirus cases, bringing total to 82

Thailand reported seven new coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in the Southeast Asian country to 82, health officials said.

One person has died so far. 

Colombia closes its border with Venezuela

Colombia's president has ordered his nation's border with Venezuela closed as a coronavirus containment measure.

Ivan Duque announced that all official border crossings with the neighbouring Andean nation will be shuttered beginning at 0200GMT on Saturday.

The two nations share a porous 2,200-kilometre border that is crossed by thousands of Venezuelans each day searching for food and medicine. Many also cross to permanently leave their nation’s economic crisis.

Mainland China reports 11 new coronavirus cases on March 13

Mainland China had 11 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on March 13, the country's National Health Commission said on Saturday, up from eight cases a day earlier.

That brings the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 80,824.

The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 3,189 as of the end of Friday, up by 13 from the previous day. All of the latest deaths were in the central province of Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, and 10 of them were in Hubei's provincial capital of Wuhan.

Trump declares virus emergency; Pelosi announces aid deal

President Donald Trump on Friday declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency to free up money and resources to fight the outbreak, and then threw his support behind an aid package from Congress that is on track to provide direct relief to Americans.

From the Rose Garden, Trump said, “I am officially declaring a national emergency," unleashing as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the crisis.

Trump also announced a range of executive actions, including a new public-private partnership to expand coronavirus testing cap abilities with drive-through locations, as Washington tries to subdue the new virus whose spread is roiling markets, shuttering institutions and disrupting the lives of everyday Americans.

New Zealand calls off Christchurch attack commemoration

New Zealand on Saturday called off a national remembrance service marking the one-year anniversary of the attack on Christchurch mosques due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

The event, to be held in Christchurch on Sunday, was expected to attract a large crowd, with many traveling from around New Zealand and from overseas.

"This is a pragmatic decision. We're very saddened to cancel, but in remembering such a terrible tragedy, we shouldn't create the risk of further harm being done," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.

New Zealand confirmed its sixth case of COVID-19 on Saturday.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Turkey closes border to passengers from nine countries

Turkey announced late Friday it will close all border gates to passengers coming from nine European countries to fight the coronavirus outbreak. 

An authorisation letter signed by Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said passengers coming from Germany, Spain, France, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, and the Netherlands will not be allowed into Turkey beginning 8 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) Saturday. 

It also said that travellers from Turkey to those countries are temporarily suspended. 

On February 3, Turkey halted flights to and from China and later suspended flights to and from Iran, South Korea and Italy.

The outbreak has caused serious casualties in some European countries, especially in Italy and the letter said some precautions were taken against other countries, where the virus has rapidly spread. 

Other third-country citizens, who have been in those countries in the last 14 days, will not be allowed entry to Turkey. 

It noted that no restrictions will be applied to the citizens of the mentioned countries who want to leave Turkey. 

Latin America death toll rises to five

Argentina announced its second coronavirus-related death on Friday as Ecuador reported its first, taking the total death toll in Latin America to five as the virus shows signs of spreading rapidly.

Venezuela, Uruguay, Guatemala and Suriname reported their first cases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall cases in the region have more than doubled in the last two days to over 340 as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned governments on Thursday to prepare their health services to cope.

Several Latin American countries have tightened restrictions on travel links with Europe, from where many people in the region are descended and still have family.

Mauritania confirms first case

Mauritania's health ministry confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the West African country in a statement on Friday.

The patient is a European man living in Mauritania who returned to the country's capital Nouakchott on March 9 and had since been in quarantine. 

His nationality was not specified

Guatemala bans arrivals from US, Canada

Guatemala has extended a ban on arrivals from countries more heavily affected by the coronavirus outbreak to include the United States and Canada, President Alejandro Giammattei said on Friday.

Earlier in the day, the Central American country announced its first case of confirmed coronavirus infection.

Trump announces 30-day suspension of cruises

US President Donald Trump on Friday announced that major cruise lines would suspend trips from US ports for 30 days amid the coronavirus pandemic that has hit several vessels.

The companies already had announced the move to pause cruises, including Carnival's Princess line which on Thursday announced a 60-day suspension.

"At my request, effective midnight tonight, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and MSC have all agreed to suspend outbound cruises for thirty days. It is a great and important industry - it will be kept that way!" Trump tweeted.

Trump declares virus pandemic national emergency

Trump declared a national emergency Friday in what critics say was a long-delayed admission of the gravity of the coronavirus crisis that's triggered the shutdown of schools, sporting events, offices and travel in the world's richest country.

Trump's declaration frees up some $40 billion in disaster relief funds for local authorities. He also surprised reporters at a press conference by saying he'll "most likely" get a test for the virus, reversing his position from only minutes earlier.

With the US toll now at 47 dead and more than 2,000 infected, the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on daily life -- and Trump has struggled to show that he is in charge.

In the economic and cultural engine of New York, the state's governor restricted gatherings of more than 500 people. Iconic cultural institutions including Broadway went dim.

"The next eight weeks are critical," Trump said in the White House Rose Garden.

"We can learn and we will turn a corner on this virus."

US Coronavirus aid package 

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Friday that Democrats had reached a deal with the administration of President Donald Trump on a relief package for Americans hit by the coronavirus epidemic.

"We are proud to have reached an agreement with the administration to resolve outstanding challenges, and now will soon pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act," Pelosi said after days of tense talks with the White House.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies