Nations are ramping up efforts to fight the deadly novel coronavirus, which has upended societies and sparked economic turmoil as it spreads around the world. Here're the latest developments:

In-demand items, including face masks, latex gloves, hand sanitizers, soap and toilet roll are seen on display in a shop window in Brighton, southern England on March 21, 2020
In-demand items, including face masks, latex gloves, hand sanitizers, soap and toilet roll are seen on display in a shop window in Brighton, southern England on March 21, 2020 (AFP)

Monday, March 23, 2020

UK govt orders three-week lockdown

Britain on Monday ordered a three-week lockdown to tackle the spread of coronavirus, shutting "non-essential" shops and services, and banning gatherings of more than two people.

"Stay at home," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a televised address to the nation, as he unveiled unprecedented peacetime measures after the death toll climbed to 335.

Johnson said that all shops selling non-essential goods would be closed, along with libraries and places of worship, and that all social events would be stopped other than funerals.

"We will stop all gatherings of more than two people in public "excluding people you live with. Parks will remain open for exercise but gatherings will be dispersed," Johnson said.

"We will keep these restrictions under constant review. We will look again in three weeks, and relax them if the evidenceshows we are able to."

Turkey death toll at 37

Turkey's death toll from the coronavirus increased by seven to 37 on Monday as the number of confirmed cases rose by 293 to 1,529, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

He said on Twitter that 3,672 test results had emerged in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of tests carried out in Turkey to above 24,000.

Warning youngsters against leaving homes, he said, "You are not invincible to the pandemic. Slow down your life. Do not enter the risky environment. Do not take the risk to your home. Stay home."

Senegal, Ivory Coast declare states of emergency

The West African states of Senegal and Ivory Coast on Monday each declared a state of emergency in the face of the new coronavirus pandemic.

Senegal will impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew, while Ivory Coast said it would introduce gradual confinement measures. 

"The speed of the progress of the disease requires us to raise the level of the response," Senegalese President Mack Sall said in a televised address to the nation.

France lockdown could last weeks

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said a virtual lockdown in France imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus could last several more weeks and that his government was tightening restrictions even further.

He said citizens from Tuesday would only be able to exercise once a day, within 1 kilometre of their home, and that burial ceremonies would be restricted to 20 people. 

Open-air markets should close, he added.

"A lot of citizens want normalcy to return, but it's not happening soon," Philippe told TF1 news. 

"We feel the lockdown measures that we have taken, and which we will toughen yet again... could last several weeks."

Italy death toll reaches 6,078 

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has grown by 602 to 6,078, the head of the Civil Protection Agency said on Monday, an 11 percent increase but the smallest rise in numerical terms since Thursday, suggesting a clear downward trend.

On Sunday, 651 people died. That followed 793 on Saturday and 627 on Friday.

The total number of confirmed cases in Italy rose to 63,927 on Monday from a previous 59,138, an increase of 8 percent, the Civil Protection Agency said — the lowest rise in percentage terms since the contagion came to light in Feb.

Turkey to start mass respirator production

Large-scale production of Turkish hospital respirators is one of the nation’s next steps against coronavirus, Turkey’s health minister announced on Monday.

“We’re starting the mass production of domestic [respirator] devices,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters in the capital Ankara, after an hours-long meeting of a committee tackling the outbreak.

Other steps in Turkey’s all-out efforts include the appointment of 32,000 new healthcare personnel, he said.

He added that Turkey has imported a promising medicine from China to provide quicker help to Covid-19 patients.

“In the coming days, we will be announcing the number of recovering cases every day. I want to note that we have a large number of people who have recovered,” Koca stressed.

UN chief urges immediate global ceasefire

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Monday for an immediate ceasefire in conflicts around the world to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The UN chief said, “It is time to put armed conflict on lock-down and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”

Guterres said the world faces “a common enemy — Covid-19,” which doesn’t care “about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith.”

He said people caught in armed conflicts, which are raging around the world, are among the most vulnerable and “are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from Covid-19.”

It’s time to silence guns, stop artillery, end air strikes and create corridors for life-saving aid and diplomacy, he said.

Covid-19 pandemic 'accelerating' - WHO chief

The new coronavirus pandemic is clearly "accelerating," the World Health Organization warned on Monday, but said it was still possible to "change the trajectory" of the outbreak.

The remarks came as the number of deaths soared past 15,000, with more than 341,000 people infected worldwide, according to a tally compiled by AFP from official sources.

"The pandemic is accelerating," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists in a virtual news briefing.

He said it took 67 days from the beginning of the outbreak in China in late December for the virus to infect the first 100,000 people worldwide.

In comparison, it took 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases, he said.

Spain death toll tops 2,000 after 462 deaths in 24 hours

The coronavirus death toll in Spain surged to 2,182 after 462 people died within 24 hours, the Health Ministry said.

The death rate showed a 27 percent increase on the figures released a day earlier, with the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases rising to 33,089.

Despite an unprecedented national lockdown, which was put in place on March 14, the number of deaths and infections have spiralled in Spain, with the figures growing as the country steps up its capacity for testing.

And the lockdown, which was initially put in place for two weeks, will be extended until April 11 to try to curb the spread, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said — in a measure which will be put to parliament on Tuesday.

Netherlands reports 34 new deaths

The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the Netherlands increased by 13 percent from a day earlier and 34 more people died, Dutch health authorities said on Monday.

The number of infections increased at the slowest pace in percentage terms since the first coronavirus case was reported in the Netherlands on Feb. 27.

There were 545 new infections, taking the total to 4,749. The death toll rose to 213, with victims aged between 55 and 97. The average age was 82.

Nigeria confirms first fatality from coronavirus

Nigeria confirmed its first fatality from coronavirus, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said in a tweet.

The patient was a 67-year-old man who returned following a medical procedure in the United Kingdom with underlying medical conditions including multiple myeloma and diabetes and was undergoing chemotherapy, the NCDC said.

Iran reports 127 more deaths

Meanwhile, Iran reported another 127 coronavirus deaths, bringing its death toll to 1,812 amid 23,049 confirmed cases. 

Iran is battling the worst outbreak in the Middle East and has faced widespread criticism for not imposing stricter quarantine measures early on. 

It is also suffering under severe American sanctions imposed after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. State TV reported the latest figures on Monday.

Norway proposes UN corona fund to help poor countries

Norway said it wanted to start a United Nations fund to help poor countries fight the new coronavirus pandemic.

"We are concerned about the way the virus will affect developing countries which have fragile healthcare systems," Norway's Development Aid Minister Dag-Inge Ulstein said in a statement.

The fund is expected to be set up quickly, "possibly even this week," Norway said, without specifying the amount of its own contribution.

Uzbekistan to lock down capital Tashkent

Uzbekistan will effectively lock down its capital city Tashkent from March 24 to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the Central Asian nation's government said.

With all but one of Uzbekistan's 46 confirmed cases registered in the city of more than 2.5 million, the government has already shut down public transit in the capital and ordered most businesses to switch to remote working.

Pope Francis postpones Malta trip 

Pope Francis' trip to Malta, which had been scheduled to take place on May 31, has been postponed indefinitely, the Vatican said on Monday.

It was to have been the first trip by a pontiff in 10 years to the tiny Mediterranean island, where he was expected to speak about the rights of migrants.

Indonesia cases rise by 65 to 579

Indonesia reported 65 new positive cases of coronavirus disease, bringing the total number of cases in Southeast Asia's largest economy to 579, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto told reporters.

The number of people killed by the virus rose by one on Monday to 49, he said, while 30 patients have recovered from the disease.

UK government takes over railways

The British government took over the railways in a bid to ensure services keep running for key workers during the coronavirus outbreak.

The transport ministry said it was suspending normal franchise agreements with private operators, taking over "all revenue and cost risk" for at least six months.

Several politicians are calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to impose tougher measures to force people to comply with advice to stay away from people.

Johnson on Sunday warned the spread of coronavirus was "accelerating" in Britain, as the number of dead rose to 281.

India halts its lifeblood train network

As India expanded its virus-containment measures and halted its lifeblood train network, the federal government warned of strict legal action for those who flout the rules.

The strict legal action vowed wasn't immediately clear. Other places have simply sent violators home, since alternatives like detention would create crowded conditions where the virus could spread.

India has at least 415 active cases of infection with the new coronavirus and seven deaths from Covid-19, the illness it causes.

Aussie Olympic chiefs advise athletes to prepare for 2021

The Australian Olympic Committee is advising its athletes to prepare for an Olympics in 2021.

Ian Chesterman, Australia's team leader for Tokyo, said, “It’s clear the games can’t be held in July" because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them," Chesterman said in a statement. 

The Australian committee's executive board agreed unanimously in an emergency teleconference Monday that “an Australian team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad" and decided to notify athletes as soon as possible.

Taiwan total now 195

Taiwan's government announced 26 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number to 195.

All but one of the new cases was imported, in people with travel histories to the United States, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Britain, the government said in a statement.

Cases in Pakistan reportedly cross 800

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Pakistan reached more than 800 with six deaths, according to local media

Meanwhile, the opposition-governed southern province of Sindh began a lockdown including in the biggest city of Karachi, even though Prime Minister Imran Khan said he opposed such a sweeping measure. 

Philippines reports eight 8 new deaths

The Philippines' health ministry confirmed eight new deaths because of the coronavirus outbreak and 16 more infections.

This brings the country's total deaths to 33 and confirmed cases to 396, said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

Thailand reports 122 new cases

Thailand has 122 new coronavirus cases, raising the total to 721, a health ministry spokesman said on Monday at a news conference.

The new cases include 20 patients linked to previous cases,10 new imported cases, and 92 cases that tested positive and are awaiting investigation into how they contracted the disease, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a Public Health Ministry spokesman said.

Thailand has recorded one death since the outbreak while 52 patients have recovered and gone home while 668 are still being treated in hospitals.

Cambodia's total cases rise to 86

Cambodia reported two new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 86, health authorities said.

"We have not yet found evidence of community outbreaks, but there is a possibility," Cambodia's Communicable Disease Control department said in a Facebook post.

Australian PM announces shutdown

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the closure of the country's bars, clubs, cinemas and casinos to fight the new coronavirus pandemic.

"No more going to the pub after work, no more going to the gym in the morning, no more sitting down for brunch at a cafe. These changes are vital to slow the spread of this virus to save lives," Morrison told Parliament.

Morrison said the drastic measures nationwide would start on Monday and also include sporting and religious venues.

Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeout service only, but schools remain open.

New Zealand to shut down over next 48 hours

New Zealand Prime MinisterJacinda Ardern said the country will move into its highest alert level, with all-non-essential services, schools and offices to be shut over the next 48 hours.

The move means bars, cafes, restaurants and cinemas will beshut. 

Supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open, Ardern said,adding that the country was well supplied.

All schools will be closed from Tuesday, she said.

"New Zealand is now preparing to go into self isolation," Ardern told a news conference.

Ardern also said people "must work from home" and every workplace must find alternative ways of working over the next 48 hours. 

China reports 39 new cases, all imported

China’s National Health Commission reported 39 new cases of COVID-19, all of which it says are “imported” infections in recent arrivals from overseas.

For more than a week, the majority of mainland China’s reported cases have been found in people coming from other countries, while community transmission inside the country has dwindled, according to the National Health Commission.

Seeking to prevent a resurgence of the virus, which first emerged late last year in central China, the government is imposing a strict quarantine on individuals entering the country.

Beginning Monday, all flights into Beijing will be diverted to one of 12 airports in other cities. 

Passengers must pass a health inspection in one of those cities before flying onward to the Chinese capital. They must then quarantine themselves in a hotel for 14 days at their own expense. 

Turkey death toll climbs to 30, total cases 1,236

Turkey confirmed nine more deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing the countries death toll to 30.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter that all the deceased were elderly people.

More than 20,000 coronavirus tests have been conducted so far on people suspected to be infected with Covid-19 and 289 people tested positive during the past 24 hours, carrying the tally of infections to 1,236, he said.

South Korea reports new cases

South Korea reported 64 new coronavirus cases, taking the national tally to 8,961, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

The new numbers extend a downward trend, marking the 12th day in a row the country has posted new infections of around 100, or less.

Japan PM says Olympics postponement unavoidable

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said a postponement of Tokyo Olympics would be unavoidable if the games cannot be held in a complete way because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He was commenting on the International Olympic Committee's plan to examine the situation over the next few weeks and make a decision, which could include the option to postpone.

Abe, speaking at a parliamentary session, ruled out the possibility of a cancellation.

Whether Japan can hold the Tokyo Games as planned from July 24 has been a major international concern as the Covid-19 outbreak has spread globally.

Canada won't send team to Tokyo 

Canadian Olympic officials urged postponement of the Tokyo Games, saying that in view of the coronavirus pandemic they won't send a team in the summer of 2020.

"The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), backed by their Athletes' Commissions, National Sports Organizations and the Government of Canada, have made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020," the COC said in a statement that ratchets up the pressure on the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Games scheduled to start on July 24.

Medical stations at hotspots ordered

Trump [on Sunday night local time] said he'd ordered the deployment of emergency medical stations with capacity of 4,000 hospital beds to coronavirus hotspots around the United States.

Trump told a news conference "I have also directed" the FEMA emergency management agency to set up the medical stations in New York with 1,000 beds, California with 2,000 beds, and Washington with another 1,000 beds.

'We're going to come for you'

A senior adviser to Trump [on Sunday local time] warned people who are hoarding supplies during the coronavirus crisis to sell them immediately and not price gouge.

Economic advisor Peter Navarro said people who'd bought up large quantities of scarce medical supplies in hopes of getting high prices should put them on the market or contact the authorities, which will pay "a fair price."

"If you don't do that we're going to come for you and make sure that doesn't happen," he warned.

US Senate fails to advance rescue package

A trillion-dollar Senate proposal to rescue the reeling US economy crashed to defeat Sunday after receiving zero support from Democrats, who said the Republican proposal failed to sufficiently help millions of Americans devastated by the coronavirus crisis.

The bill, which proposed up to $2 trillion in funding for American families, thousands of shuttered or suffering businesses and the nation's critically under-equipped hospitals, failed by a 47-47 vote when it needed 60 to pass, despite intense negotiations between Republicans, Democrats and Trump's administration.

Saudi announces curfew 

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz ordered curfew from 7 pm until 6 am for a period of 21 days, effective from Monday evening, to limit the spread of coronavirus .

The Kingdom reported 119 new cases, bringing total to 511.

UAE suspends flights

The United Arab Emirates announced it will suspend all passenger and transit flights for two weeks amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Emirati authorities "have decided to suspend all inbound and outbound passenger flights and the transit of airline passengers in the UAE for two weeks as part of the precautionary measures taken to curb the spread of the Covid-19", reported the official state news agency, WAM.

It added that the decision will take effect in 48 hours.

More than 100 cases in New Zealand

The number of coronavirus cases in New Zealand crossed the 100 mark as the country reported 36 new infections.

Of the new cases, two are related to community transmission, Ministry of Health's Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said in a news conference.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies