Lockdowns extended around the world as the global death toll soars past 38,000 and the number of confirmed infections surpasses 800,000 cases, with Europe and the US the worst hit. Here are the latest updates for March 31:

An employee, wearing a protective face mask, loads a coffin for a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) victim on a truck at a funeral logistic center in Ris-Orangis, near Paris, as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues in France, March 31, 2020.
An employee, wearing a protective face mask, loads a coffin for a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) victim on a truck at a funeral logistic center in Ris-Orangis, near Paris, as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues in France, March 31, 2020. (Benoit Tessier / Reuters)

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

France reports record 499 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours

France on Tuesday reported its highest daily number of deaths from COVID-19 since the coronavirus epidemic began, saying 499 more people had died in hospital to bring the toll to 3,523.

There are now 22,757 people hospitalised in France with COVID-19, with 5,565 of them in intensive care, health official Jerome Salomon told reporters in his daily update.

The French death toll includes only those who died in hospital and not those who died at home or in old people's homes.

US virus death toll exceeds official China tally

The number of deaths in the United States from coronavirus has surpassed those reported by China, where the pandemic began in December, according to a toll published on Tuesday by Johns Hopkins University.

There have been 3,415 deaths in the US from the virus, the Baltimore-based university said, more than the 3,309 reported officially in China.

There are 175,067 confirmed coronavirus cases in the US, the university said, the most of any country in the world.

Turkey death toll from coronavirus rises to 214

The death toll in Turkey from the new coronavirus rose to 214 after 46 more people died of the disease in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry announced on Tuesday.

The total number of confirmed cases surged to 13,531, as another 2,704 people tested positive for the virus, according to the ministry data.

A total of 243 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals since the beginning of the outbreak, according to the data, which said 847 patients are being treated under intensive care.

Also, 15,422 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours and the total number of tests carried out so far rose to 92,403.

Turkey set to release some 45,000 inmates in coronavirus response

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's governing party said on Tuesday it proposed a bill that would temporarily release roughly 45,000 prisoners in response to the risk that the coronavirus could spread in jails.

There are about 300,000 prisoners in Turkey's crowded jails. The government has been working on reforms to ease pressure on the system, while human rights groups have said infections could easily grow there.

Inmates who have completed half of their sentences will be eligible for release under the plan, senior AK Party deputy Cahit Ozkan told reporters. It would exclude those convicted of terror or drugs related crimes, offences of a sexual nature and murder and violence against women.

13-year-old shot dead; Kenyan police enforcing curfew blamed

The bullet struck the 13-year-old as he stood on the balcony of his family’s home with his siblings. Below, police officers moved through the crowded neighbourhood, enforcing Kenya’s new coronavirus curfew.

The killing might be the latest example of police abuse of coronavirus restrictions seen in several African nations in the past week.

Kenya’s police inspector general has ordered an investigation into the boy’s death by “stray bullet,” including a forensic analysis of all firearms held by officers at the scene.
Kenya now has 59 coronavirus cases, including one death from the disease.

12-year-old infected with COVID-19 dies in Belgium

A 12-year-old girl confirmed infected with COVID-19 has died in Belgium, health officials said on Tuesday.

Fatality from the virus at such a young age "is a very rare occurrence," said government spokesman Dr Emmanuel Andre, adding that her death "shook us".

The girl had a fever for three days before her death, and tested positive for COVID-19, said another spokesman, Steven Van Gucht.

The government gave no other details, notably not saying whether she had any other underlying health problems.

It was the first death of a child in the coronavirus crisis in Belgium, which has now recorded 705 deaths according to the latest official toll.

Russia's top coronavirus doctor who met Putin tests positive

The head of Moscow's main coronavirus hospital who met with President Vladimir Putin a week ago has tested positive, he said on Tuesday, as the Kremlin announced the Russian leader's health was fine.

Last Tuesday Denis Protsenko met with the Russian leader who inspected the Kommunarka hospital while wearing a bright yellow hazmat suit. But the 67-year-old Putin was also seen talking to Protsenko without any protective gear.

Posting a picture of himself wearing a mask and green scrubs on Facebook, he said he self-isolated in his office and would continue to work.

Protsenko has become a high-profile figure on the frontlines of Russia's fight against COVID-19, posting daily on Facebook to inform Russians about his hospital's work and patients.

Over the past 24 hours Russian authorities have reported 500 new cases — the biggest daily increase so far — bringing the total tally to 2,337 cases and 17 fatalities.

England's coronavirus death toll rises to 1,651

The death toll in England from the coronavirus outbreak rose 29 percent to 1,651, the National Health Service said.

"Patients were aged between 19 and 98 years old and all but 28 patients (aged between 19 and 91 years old) had underlying health conditions," it added.

Scotland said 60 people had died as of Tuesday. Wales said 69 people had died.

Coronavirus deaths in Netherlands rise 

The number of deaths in the Netherlands resulting from the coronavirus epidemic has risen by 175 to 1,039, health authorities said on Tuesday.

The number of confirmed infections increased by 845 to 12,595, the Netherlands' National Institute for Health (RIVM) said.

Singapore warns firms to enable home-working as coronavirus cases rise 

Singapore said on Tuesday it could force companies to suspend operations if they do not do more to ensure employees can work from home to reduce the risk of coronavirus infections, as the city state reported 47 more cases of the respiratory illness.

"If we assess that a company has not made a serious enough effort to implement telecommuting, we may have to issue a stop work order," Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said. 

She said that if the nature of their business allowed work to be done from home, firms should do their utmost to make this happen.

The Southeast Asian city-state recorded its third death from the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday. It has reported a total of 926 cases of the virus to date.

Indonesia declares state of emergency as virus toll jumps

Indonesian leader Joko Widodo declared a state of emergency on Tuesday as coronavirus deaths in the world's fourth most populous country jumped again, but he resisted calls for a nationwide lockdown.

On Tuesday, authorities said 136 people had died after contracting the virus, with 1,528 confirmed cases of infection.

But the latter figure is widely thought to be well below the real number in the archipelago of more than 260 million.

The Indonesian Doctors' Association has warned that the coronavirus crisis is far worse than has been officially reported and that the government's response is "in tatters."

Belarus reports first coronavirus death

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday a patient who tested positive for coronavirus had died, the country's first confirmed death resulting from the virus, the Belta news agency reported.

Belarus had 152 confirmed cases as of Monday.

Swiss coronavirus death toll rises, positive tests hit 16,176

The Swiss death toll from the coronavirus epidemic has risen to 373, the country's public health agency said on Tuesday, from 295 people on Monday.

The number of positive tests increased to 16,176 from 15,575 on Monday, it said.

Spain registers overnight death toll of 849

Spain registered 849 fatalities related to coronavirus overnight, the highest number in 24 hours since the epidemic started, although the increase in percentage terms was slightly lower than in previous days, the Health Ministry said.

The death toll rose to 8,189 from 7,340, while the number of cases rose to 94,417 from 85,195.

Iran reports 141 new virus deaths, raising total to 2,898

Iran's death toll from coronavirus has reached 2,898, with 141 deaths in the past 24 hours, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told state TV, adding that the total number of infected cases has jumped to 44,606.

"In the past 24 hours, 3,111 new cases have emerged. Unfortunately, 3,703 of the infected people are in a critical condition," Jahanpur said.

Over 5,000 virus cases confirmed in Africa

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 47 of the continent's 54 countries now have cases, with 5,255 in all.

That includes 173 deaths. But shortages of testing materials mean the real number of cases could be higher.

South Africa's president earlier announced that the country, which has the most cases in Africa, with 1,326, will launch a mass screening and testing program with about 10,000 field workers going door-to-door. 

Uganda and Botswana are the latest African countries to impose a lockdown in an effort to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

Russia reports 500 new cases 

The number of coronavirus cases in Russia jumped to 2,337, with an increase of 500, as the country recorded its biggest daily rise for the seventh day in a row.

In Russia, 18 people who contracted the coronavirus have now died, while 121 people have recovered. 

Australians in their 20s have more confirmed cases

Australians in their 20s are the most represented age group in the country's statistics for confirmed novel coronavirus cases since the group is most likely to travel or party with returned travellers, experts said in a Guardian report.

Around one in five people contracting the virus were aged 20 to 29, according to data compiled by Australia's federal health department.

The total breakdown is as follows: 11.3 percent of confirmed cases are those aged 25 to 29, 9.5 percent in people aged 60 to 65 — onboard the cruise ship — and 9.3 percent in those aged 20 to 25.

German city follows Austria, makes shoppers wear face masks

The city of Jena in eastern Germany has decided to make people wear face masks when shopping or travelling by public transport, stepping up efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus and becoming the first city in the country to take the step.

For the last two weeks, states around Germany have closed schools, restaurants, bars and banned public gatherings as they try to tackle the outbreak but the number of cases and deaths is still rising fast.

Jena, which has 119 cases of the coronavirus, decided to follow Austria, which on Monday said it was requiring shoppers to wear basic face masks in supermarkets.

Indonesia declares a national health emergency

Indonesia confirmed 114 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total to 1,528, a Health Ministry official said.

Another 14 people had died, taking the total to 136, the official, Achmad Yurianto, reported. 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo declared a national public health emergency over the coronavirus pandemic and announced measures to help people with lower incomes.

Philippines reports 10 deaths, 538 more infections

The Philippines' Health Ministry recorded its single largest daily increase in coronavirus deaths and infections.

Ten more people died because of the outbreak, bringing the total to 88, while 538 additional infections increased the total number of cases to 2,084, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

Tanzania confirms its first coronavirus death

Tanzania confirmed its first coronavirus death, health minister Ummy Mwalimu said in a statement.

The 49-year-old Tanzanian male, who had pre-existing conditions, had been admitted to Mloganzila Hospital in Dar Es Salaam for treatment. 

Tanzania had 19 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Monday. 

Coronavirus epidemic 'far from over' in Asia – WHO official

The coronavirus epidemic is "far from over" in the Asia-Pacific region and current measures to curb the spread of the virus are buying time for countries to prepare for large-scale community transmissions, a WHO official said.

Even with all the measures, the risk of transmission in the region will not go away as long as the pandemic continues, said Takeshi Kasai, regional director for the Western Pacific at the World Health Organization (WHO).

Kasai warned that for countries that are seeing a tapering off of cases, they should not let down their guard, or the virus may come surging back.

Number of cases in Germany rises to 61,913 – RKI

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Germany rose to 61,913 and 583 people have died of the disease, statistics from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

Cases rose by 4,615 compared with the previous day while the death toll climbed by 128, the tally showed.

Japan coronavirus infections top 2,000 cases

Coronavirus infections in Japan topped 2,000 cases, according to a Reuters calculation based on ministry data and media reports.

A centre for disabled people in Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo, found seven more infections bringing the total there to 93, Kyodo News reported.

Elsewhere, more infections were found in Ehime, Fukui, Kagawa, and Tokushima prefectures, as well as in a doctor and nurse in Tokyo's cancer research hospital, according to Kyodo and public broadcaster NHK.

Death toll in Australia reaches 19

The death toll in Australia from the novel coronavirus has reached to 19 people as of 31 March. 

Peter Gutwein, the premier of Tasmania, said an 80-year-old infected man died at Royal Hobart Hospital, bringing the state’s death toll to two.

The number of confirmed cases surpassing 4,500, local officials said.

Myanmar reports first coronavirus death

Myanmar reported its first coronavirus death, a 69-year-old man who also had cancer and died in a hospital in the commercial capital of Yangon, a government spokeswoman said.

He had sought medical treatment in Australia and stopped in Singapore on his way home, according to the health ministry.

Myanmar has confirmed 14 cases of the virus, mostly in people who have travelled overseas.

The country has a weak healthcare system after decades of neglect under the former ruling military junta. 

Thailand reports 127 new cases, one death

Thailand reported 127 new coronavirus cases and one death, a health official said.

The latest number raises the total number of confirmed infections in Thailand to 1,651 cases and 10 deaths since the country's first case was reported in January.

Czech Republic's coronavirus infections top 3,000

The tally of coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic has exceeded 3,000, the Health Ministry said, after recording 184 new cases the previous day.

The country, which has carried out more than 43,000 tests and is ramping up daily testing, has reported the largest number of cases among central European states.

The ministry reported a total of 3,001 cases by the end of Monday, with 23 deaths, while 25 people have recovered. 

World Bank warns China growth could screech to a halt

The coronavirus pandemic's economic fallout could cause China's growth to come to a virtual standstill and drive 11 million more people in East Asia into poverty, the World Bank warned.

The pandemic is causing "an unprecedented global shock, which could bring growth to a halt and could increase poverty across the region", said Aaditya Mattoo, World Bank chief economist for East Asia and the Pacific.

Even in the best-case scenario, the region will see a sharp slowdown, with China's growth slowing to 2.3 percent from 6.1 percent in 2019, according to a report on the pandemic's impact on the region.

South Korea reports 125 new coronavirus cases, total 9,786 

South Korea reported 125 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number of infections to 9,786, the Korean Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Mexican coronavirus cases pass 1,000

Mexico's health ministry confirmed 1,094 cases of coronavirus in the country, up from 993 the day before.

It also said 28 people had died from the virus in Mexico, up from 20 a day earlier.

Mainland China reports 48 new confirmed coronavirus cases

Mainland China reported a rise in new confirmed coronavirus cases, reversing four days of declines, due to an uptick in infections involving travellers arriving from overseas.

Mainland China had 48 new cases on Monday, the National Health Commission said in a statement, up from 31 new infections a day earlier.

All of the 48 cases were imported, bringing the total number of imported cases in China to 771 as of Monday.

There was no reported new case of local infection on Monday, according to the National Health Commission.

US coronavirus death toll passes 3,000: JHU

The US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic passed 3,000 on Monday, according to the running tally compiled by the Johns Hopkins University, with more than 163,000 confirmed cases.

The US has recorded 3,008 deaths, according to the tally, while its 163,429 cases are by far the highest national number ahead of Italy, Spain and China.

New Zealand extends state of emergency 

New Zealand is extending the state of national emergency for a further seven days to help stop the spread of Covid-19, the Minister of Civil Defence Peeni Henare said in a statement on Tuesday.

The initial declaration on March 25 lasted seven days and can be extended as many times as necessary.

"Extending the state of national emergency ensures we have all the resources, support and powers we need to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in our communities," Henare said.

New York greets hospital ship with cheers

New York welcomed the arrival of a gleaming 1,000-bed US Navy hospital ship as a beacon of hope for the city’s desperate fight against the coronavirus pandemic, while the national death toll climbed past 3,000 on the country’s most deadly day.

People gathered on the New York and New Jersey sides of the Hudson River to cheer the US Navy ship Comfort, a converted oil tanker painted white with giant red crosses, as it sailed past the Statue of Liberty accompanied by support ships and helicopters.

The Comfort will treat non-coronavirus patients, including those who require surgery and critical care, the Navy said.

Six members of US Congress diagnosed with coronavirus

At least six members of the US Congress have announced that they have contracted the novel coronavirus, and more than 30 others are or were self-quarantining in hopes of limiting the spread of the pandemic.

Now that Congress has passed a $2.2 trillion economic relief bill and President Donald Trump has signed it into law, neither the House of Representatives nor Senate is due back in Washington until April 20 at the earliest.

Those who tested positive are Nydia Velazquez (D), Mike Kelly (R), Joe Cunningham (D), Rand Paul (R), Mario Diaz-Balart (R), Ben McAdams (D),

Airbnb to pay out $250M to hosts over cancellations

Airbnb said on Monday it was allocating $250 million to help offset losses by hosts around the world whose guests have cancelled bookings in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, following its announcement earlier this month that guests could get full refunds for certain reservations.

The aid, which will pay hosts 25 percent of their normal cancellation fees, is being offered globally except for China.

The payments to hosts apply to the cancellation of reservations with check-in dates between March 14 and May 31. Because hosts can choose different cancellation policies, some requiring a penalty payment with others allowing free cancellation up to a certain date before check-in, not all cancelled reservations will qualify for a payment.

New York governor begs for help amid 'staggering' death toll

New York's governor issued an urgent appeal for medical volunteers Monday amid a staggering number of deaths from the coronavirus, as he and health officials warned that the crisis unfolding in New York City is just a preview of what other communities across the US could soon face.

"Please come help us in New York now," Governor Andrew Cuomo said as the state's death toll climbed by more than 250 in a single day for a total of more than 1,200 victims, most of them in the city. He said an additional 1 million health care workers are needed to tackle the crisis.

"We've lost over 1,000 New Yorkers," Cuomo said. "To me, we're beyond staggering already. We've reached staggering."

Even before the governor's appeal went out, close to 80,000 former nurses, doctors and other professionals in New York were stepping up to volunteer and a Navy hospital ship, also sent to the city after 9/11, had arrived with 1,000 beds to relieve pressure on the city's overwhelmed hospitals.

Over a million Americans tested for coronavirus

US President Donald Trump said on Monday 2100GMT that more than 1 million Americans had been tested for coronavirus and urged people to continue to follow social distancing measures through April to prevent the virus from spreading.

"Every one of us has a role to play in winning this war. Every citizen, family and business can make a difference in stopping the virus. This is our shared patriotic duty. Challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days and this is a very vital 30 days," Trump told reporters at the White House.

He referred to the testing number as a milestone.

The comments came a day after Trump made a dramatic course reversal and announced that he would not be moving to ease the guidelines and get the economy back up and running by Easter, as he said last week he hoped to do. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies