Turkey announced new cases late Monday as it continues efforts to curb coronavirus spread. This is what's happening with the pandemic around the world on March 16:

People wear protective face masks due to coronavirus concerns in Istanbul, Turkey March 16, 2020.
People wear protective face masks due to coronavirus concerns in Istanbul, Turkey March 16, 2020. (Reuters)

Monday, March 16, 2020

Turkey toll at 47 as more cases surface

Turkey announced new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus late Monday as it continued efforts to curb its spread. 

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 29 more people have been diagnosed with the virus, bringing the total number in Turkey to 47. 

He said the new case come from contacts abroad; the US, Middle East, Europe and three were pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia. 

Turkey will hold an urgent meeting, headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Wednesday to coordinate the fight against coronavirus, said Turkey's communications director.  

"President Erdogan will head an extensive urgent coordination meeting on the fight with coronavirus. Following the meeting, he will tell the public about future steps to be taken," Fahrettin Altun said late Monday on Twitter. 

Tunisia to halt flights 

Tunisia will suspend international flights and close its land border in an effort to prevent the outbreak of coronavirus, Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh said on Monday.

He added in a speech that all gatherings and markets will be banned and work hours for state employees will be reduced.

Coronavirus crisis could last until summer – Trump

The ongoing new coronavirus could last in the US until the height of summer, President Donald Trump warned on Monday while rolling out new, more stringent social distancing guidelines.  

Should Americans adhere to the new measures, Trump told reporters at the White House, "It seems to me that if we do a really good job, we'll not only hold the death down to a level that is much lower than the other way had we not done a good job, but people are talking about July, August, something like that."

In addition to listening to state and local authorities as they more closely address regional outbreaks, the Trump administration is now recommending all Americans stay home if they feel sick, and keep their children at home if they are sick. 

Trump also said he might ask the military to help build temporary hospitals to tackle the worsening outbreak.
Asked if the Army Corps of Engineers would build emergency hospitals, Trump said "we're looking into it... we're looking into it very strongly."

France closes borders, begins social aid to public

President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation on Monday evening, issuing strong words and communicating closed borders to a wary French public that is now witnessing social norms more fit for wartime than one of peace.

Despite a lack of real combat, the president issued a battle cry of his own.

"We are at war," he said, "in the health war, of course, we are fighting neither against armies nor against another nation. But the enemy is there, invisible, and it is progressing."

Italy reports 349 new deaths

Italy on Monday reported 349 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, taking its total since last month to 2,158, the most after China.

The number of official Covid-19 fatalities has more than doubled since Thursday, when Italy's toll topped 1,000 for the first time. 

Italy now has 27,980 infections, compared to 15,113 four days ago.

Test 'every suspected case' - WHO

The World Health Organization called for countries to test every suspected case of Covid-19, as the rest of the world registered more cases and deaths in the pandemic than China.

"You cannot fight a fire blindfolded," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in a virtual press conference from the UN agency's headquarters in Geneva.

"In the past week, we have seen a rapid escalation of cases of Covid-19," he said, as the global death toll in the pandemic soared past 7,000.

More cases and deaths have now been reported in the rest of the world than in China, where the new coronavirus first surfaced in December, he added.

Iran's death toll hits 853

Iran's death toll from the new coronavirus has reached 853, with 129 new deaths in the past 24 hours, a Health Ministry official tweeted, adding that a total of 14,991 people have been infected across Iran.

"In the past 24 hours we had 1,053 confirmed new cases of coronavirus and 129 new deaths," Alireza Vahabzadeh tweeted.

To contain the outbreak in Iran, one of the deadliest outside of China, officials have called on people to stay at home.

Businesses have nevertheless remained open in Iran, with the divergent approaches adopted by local authorities reflecting continued uncertainty over how to slow the spread of a virus that has infected around 170,000 people worldwide and caused more than 6,500 deaths.

Turkey takes additional measures against coronavirus

Turkey's top religious authority has suspended all congregational prayers in mosques, including traditional Friday prayers, to help stem the spread of coronavirus.

Ali Erbas, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, said on Monday that mosques would remain open for those who want to pray individually.

In addition, the country's Interior Ministry also stepped up measures to stem the coronavirus spread, including the closing of restaurants, cafes, movie theatres, wedding and event venues, and indoors children's play areas.

Moreover, meetings and congresses of all NGOs with high attendance will be suspended starting tonight over coronavirus, the Interior Ministry announced.

Malaysia bans mass gatherings, shuts most businesses 

Malaysia's leader has announced a drastic two-week lockdown in the country following a sharp spike in the number of virus cases. 

Prime Minister Muhyiddini Yassin said religious institutions, schools, businesses and government offices will be shut until March 31. 

He said travel in and out of the country will be banned. Only essential services including supermarkets, banks, gas stations and pharmacies will be allowed to stay open. 

Malaysia reported 315 new cases in the last two days to raise its total to 553. 

The Philippines imposed strict home quarantine measures 

The Philippines announced stringent self-quarantine measures and halted work and transport across its main island of Luzon.

The government would with immediate effect compel people to remain in their homes and rely on deliveries of food and medical supplies, while transport and work would be suspended except for essential services, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

"The president's ultimate goal is to save ourselves from ourselves," Panelo said in a television interview.

The measures, if implemented fully, would be among the strictest in place in Asia, as the country grapples to contain an outbreak that has seen confirmed cases rise to 140 — from only three cases 10 days ago — with 12 deaths.

Iran says coronavirus killed member of top clerical body

Iran's coronavirus outbreak killed a member of the 88-strong clerical body that appoints and monitors the supreme leader, state media said.

Ayatollah Hashem Bathayi Golpayegani, who was 78, died two days after testing positive for the Covid-19 virus and being hospitalised, state news agency IRNA reported.

At least 12 Iranian politicians and officials, both sitting and former, have now died of the illness, and 13 more have been infected and are either in quarantine or being treated.

The country has been scrambling to contain the rapid spread of coronavirus, which so far has infected 13,938 people and killed at least 724, according to official figures.

Bahrain records first coronavirus death in the Gulf

A Bahraini woman, who had pre-existing medical conditions, has died from the novel coronavirus, the Health Ministry announced, marking the first death from the disease among Gulf Cooperation Council states.

Nearly 1,000 cases of the virus have been recorded so far across the six nations of the GCC. Most of those infected were people returning from Iran.

Facing a mounting public health threat, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman have taken drastic measures to combat the pandemic that include shutting down cinemas and other entertainment centres — some even closing gyms and spas.

France says situation 'deteriorating very fast'

The coronavirus outbreak in France is "very worrying" and "deteriorating very fast," the head of the country's health service said.

"The number of cases double every three days," Jerome Salomon said on France Inter. "I want our citizens to realise that there are people who are sick, who are in intensive care and that (their number) runs into hundreds." 

According to the latest official figures published on Sunday, France has had 127 coronavirus deaths and 5,423 confirmed cases. 

First US sailor aboard a warship tests positive for coronavirus

A US sailor aboard a warship tested positive for the coronavirus for the first time, the US Navy said on Sunday.

The Navy said the sailor was quarantined at home and that personnel who had been in close contact with the sailor have been notified and are in self-isolation at their homes.

"None of them is aboard the ship currently. US Navy ships conduct routine, daily cleanliness procedures geared toward health, wellness and the prevention of communicable disease spread," the Navy said in a statement.

The sailor had been assigned to the USS Boxer, the Navy said. 

US enters slow shutdown 

US governors and mayors were closing restaurants, bars, and schools as the nation sank deeper into chaos over the crisis. 

Travellers returning home from overseas trips were stuck in line for hours at major airports for screenings, causing them to be crammed into just the kind of crowded spaces that public health officials have been urging people to avoid.

President Donald Trump sought to calm a jittery nation by declaring that the government has “tremendous control” over the situation and urging people to stop the panic buying of grocery staples that has depleted the shelves of stores around the country. 

Gun stores started seeing a similar run on weapons and ammunition as the panic intensified.

Mainland China reports 14 more deaths

Mainland China had 16 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Sunday, the National Health Commission said on Monday, down from 20 a day earlier.

That brings the total number of confirmed cases in China so far to 80,860.

The death toll from the outbreak in China had reached 3,213 as of the end of Sunday, up by 14 from the previous day.

In the central province of Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak in China, there were 14 new deaths, with the provincial capital of Wuhan accounting for 13 of the fatalities. 

South Korea reports 74 new cases

South Korea reported 74 new coronavirus infections on Monday, slightly lower than a day ago, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new cases bring the country's total to 8,236.

The KCDC also reported that 303 more patients had fully recovered and had been released from care. A total of 1,137 people have recovered and been released so far.

South Korea has been experiencing a downward trend in new cases and the latest numbers are significantly lower than the peak of 909 cases reported on February 29 and slightly down from the 76 recorded on Sunday.

New York and Los Angeles close down restaurants and bars 

New York and Los Angeles on Sunday ordered all its bars and restaurants to close except for take-outs, in the latest dramatic shutdown as authorities worldwide struggle to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered all restaurants, bars and night clubs to close in an effort to slow spread of coronavirus.

"I will sign an Executive Order limiting restaurants, bars and cafes to food take-out and delivery," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement, calling for "a wartime mentality."

"Nightclubs, movie theatres, small theatre houses, and concert venues must all close."

New York has already banned gatherings of more than 500 people, including in Broadway theatres.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies