The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surged past 5,000 on Saturday with the total number of cases rising to more than 140,000, as the infection continues to prompt countries to take unprecedented measures to help stave off a global health crisis.
Saudi Arabia said it would suspend international flights for two weeks in response to the outbreak while New Zealand announced a mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone entering the country, just hours after cancelling the one-year memorial service of the Christchurch mosque attacks.
On Friday, US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the pandemic, opening the door to providing what he said was about $50bn in federal aid to fight the disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO) meanwhile said Europe has now become the “epicentre” for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The virus has also spread to several countries on the African continent, with Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Guinea, Mauritania and Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) all confirming their first cases on Friday and Saturday.
Here are the latest updates:
Saturday, March 14
12:20 GMT – Spanish town suspends Easter processions
Seville’s Holy Week processions will be cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, said the mayor of the southern Spanish city.
“I want to communicate the most difficult decision I have taken in my five years as mayor, the suspension of the Holy Week processions 2020,” Seville mayor Juan Espadas Cejas wrote on Twitter.
Quiero comunicaros la decisión más dura en la que he participado como alcalde en estos cinco años y que significa la suspensión de los desfiles procesionales de la Semana Santa 2020 de forma consensuada con @ElConsejoSev y el Arzobispado. @Ayto_Sevilla #COVIDー19 pic.twitter.com/nPXF6R1dKV
— Juan Espadas Cejas (@JuanEspadasSVQ) March 14, 2020
12:05 GMT – Afghanistan bans sports and Nowruz events, closes schools
The number of cases in Afghanistan jumps to 11, the Heath Ministry said, prompting the country to ramp up its efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
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Among new restricting measures, the country cancelled traditional Nowruz ceremonies usually held to celebrate the Persian New Year. The government has also cancelled all sporting events, and schools are closed until an unspecified date, tweeted Waheed Omar, the director-general of the president’s office of public and strategic affairs.
11:45 GMT – Austria announces coronavirus aid package, ditches deficit target
Austria is making 4bn euros ($4.4bn) immediately available to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the conservative-led government said as it ditched a central pledge to balance its budget.
“A balanced budget is always important, but Austrians’ health, jobs and a stable economy is more important,” Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel told a government news conference, referring to his and fellow conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s top economic target.
The initial 4 billion euro “corona crisis fund” would cover items such as bridge loans and credit guarantees to shore up businesses’ liquidity, Kurz said. Help with shortening working hours for staff and deferring taxes would also be provided.
11:25 GMT – Religious event in Malaysia connects 41 new cases
Malaysia reported 41 new coronavirus cases, all linked to a religious event on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur that was attended by about 10,000 people from several countries.
Following the new findings, the total number of infected people rose to 238, the health ministry said in a statement.
A total of 81 cases in the country have now been confirmed as connected to the same event held at a mosque between February 27 and March 1.
To contain the wave of infections, Prime Minister Muyiddin Yassin cancelled or postoponed all gatherings including international meetings, sports, social and religious events until after April, he said.
11:10 GMT – Yellow Vest protesters on the streets despite govt’s ban
Thousands of French security forces fanned out across central Paris as anti-government “Yellow Vest” protesters took to the street despite a ban on mass gatherings issued to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Friday that all gatherings with more than 100 people had been banned. Paris police had already turned down requests for protesters to demonstrate at sensitive sites, including the Champs Elysees where violent clashes broke out between security forces and protesters almost a year ago to the day.
“It’s Saturday, demonstration day. Some people think that the coronavirus won’t touch them and refuse to respect the advice,” a riot police officer told Reuters in front of a heavily armed vehicle blocking the road that leads to the presidential palace.
10:45 GMT – Cambodia bars entry from five countries
Cambodia has banned entry for visitors coming from Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the US to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The 30-day ban on “foreigners” will come into effect on March 17, the Ministry of Health said in a statement as Cambodia recorded two new cases, bringing its tally to seven.
“The Kingdom of Cambodia has subsequently detected the COVID-19 virus on different foreign nationals, which requires immediate measures to prevent the spread and importation of the COVID-19 virus into Cambodia,” said Minister of Health Mam Bunheng.
10:30 GMT – Death toll in Iran surges to 611 amid 12,792 cases
The coronavirus has killed another 97 people in Iran, pushing the death toll to 611 amid 12,792 cases, Iranian state TV said.
Iran is at the epicentre of the outbreak in the Middle East and also the country with the highest number of infected cases among government figures, including at least seven top officials who lost their lives.
To combat the coronavirus, Iran asked the International Monetary Fund for $5bn in emergency funding.
09:55 GMT – Abu Dhabi shuts down major cultural venues
Authorities in Abu Dhabi have closed major tourism and cultural venues, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum and the Ferrari World theme park, from March 15-31, hoping the move will help contain the spread of the coronavirus.
In line with precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of visitors, #AbuDhabi’s main tourist attractions, theme parks & cultural destination will be temporarily closed from 15 to 31 March to limit large gatherings and protect public health in response to COVID-19
— Abu Dhabi Government Media Office (@admediaoffice) March 14, 2020
09:40 GMT – Rwanda confirms first case
Rwanda has become the latest country to report a case of the new coronavirus.
The patient is an Indian citizen who arrived in the East African nation from Mumbai on March 8, according to Rwanda’s health ministry. He had no symptoms on arrival, but presented himself to a health facility on March 13.
“He is currently under treatment in stable condition, isolated from other patients,” the ministry said. “The tracing of all contacts has been conducted for further management”.
Rwanda is the 19th African nation to register a case.
09:20 GMT – Indonesia’s coronavirus cases rise to 96, 5 deaths
Indonesia reported 27 more coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of confirmed infection to 96 in the Southeast Asian country, said Achmad Yurianto, a health ministry official.
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.
09:05 GMT – Namibia reports first two 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.
Despite the news, the government would continue with plans to celebrate Namibia’s Independence Day on March 21, Shangula told a press conference.
08:50 GMT – Philippines confirms 34 new coronavirus cases
The Philippines reported 34 new coronavirus cases, bringing the 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.
08:40 GMT – China’s imported cases surpassed the number of those locally transmitted
China appears to be facing a new challenge as the number of infections coming from outside its borders
is now higher than the one of locally transmitted cases. The trend is taking place as China continues to slow the spread of the virus domestically.
The National Heath Commission confirmed 11 new cases, but seven of those were all detected in travellers coming into China from overseas, specifically Italy, the United States and Saudi Arabia.
Later on Saturday, Shanghai’s city government confirmed a further two imported cases in travellers from France and Spain.
08:20 GMT – Iran stops Abadan oil refinery expansion until mid-April
Iran has decided to halt work on the expansion of its Abadan oil refinery until mid-April.
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“In order to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, the second phase of the Abadan refinery project will be halted from next week until mid-Farvardin (first Iranian calendar month which starts on March 20),” the semi-official Mehr news agency said, citing Managing Director of National Iranian Oil Engineering and Construction Company (NIOEC) Saeed Sattari Naini.
In December 2017, China’s Sinopec Engineering (Group) Company, signed a deal with National Iranian Oil Engineering and Construction Company to carry out the work over a period of four years.
08:10 GMT – Cambodia to close schools in two cities
Cambodia has ordered the closure of schools in the capital, Phnom Penh, and the popular tourist destination of Siem Reap in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, local media reported on Saturday.
An annual two-week school break next month during the Khmer New Year holiday would start early, the Education Ministry said.
Students will return to school after the holiday period, which will be observed April 14 to 16 this year.
Cambodia has so far reported seven infections in total.
07:42 GMT – Apple to close retail stores outside China
Apple will close all its retail stores outside China until March 27 hoping to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission.
“We will be closing all of our retail stores outside of Greater China until March 27,” Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in a letter posted on the company’s website.
“In all of our offices, we are moving to flexible work arrangements worldwide outside of Greater China,” he added. “That means team members should work remotely if their job allows”.
07:21 GMT – Trump, coronavirus and the politics of a pandemic
Experts warn world leaders will have to overcome nationalist tendencies to deal with the rapidly spreading disease.
Read more here.
07:06 GMT – Jakarta shuts down schools for two weeks
Schools across Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, will close for two weeks after 69 people tested positive and four people died from the novel coronavirus.
“People have been calling for these measures for a number of days now as this growing sense of anxiety builds up about the coronavirus outbreak,” said Al Jazeera’s Jessica Washington, reporting from Jakarta.
“There are concerns particularly around transparency and how Indonesia’s government is handling this crisis,” Washington said.
06:54 GMT – Saudi to suspend international flights
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minustry said on Saturday it would suspend international flights for two weeks in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“The Kingdom’s government decided to suspend international flights for two weeks (Starting from Sunday March 15th) as part of its efforts to prevent the spread of #CoronaVirus,” it wrote on Twitter.
Precautionary Health Measures |
— Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦 (@KSAmofaEN) March 14, 2020
The kingdom, which has registered 86 cases so far but no deaths, had already halted flights to some countries and closed schools and universities.
It has also suspended the Umra year-round pilgrimage to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
06:01 GMT Saturday – Metro Manila imposes curfew during coronavirus lockdown
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), which oversees the Philippine capital and its surrounding districts, has announced that it is imposing a curfew in the metropolis from Sunday.
MMDA Chairman Jojo Garcia told reporters on Saturday that 17 Metro Manila mayors have approved the curfew from 8pm to 5am local time.
The move follows an announcement by President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday that the entire capital region, with a population of more than 12 million, would be placed under lockdown from Sunday.
There are now six deaths and 64 confirmed coronavirus cases in the Philippines.
National emergency declared in US over coronavirus
05:40 GMT – US Congress passes coronavirus relief package
The US House of Representatives early on Saturday overwhelmingly passed a coronavirus relief package for Americans hit by the pandemic.
The measure, which seeks additional fund amounting to $50bn, passed by 363 votes to 40 and will now move to the US Senate.
President Donald Trump tweeted his support for the bill before the vote and urged both Republicans and Democrats to back it. – AFP news agency
05:30 GMT – Thailand reports seven new coronavirus cases, total at 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, according to Reuters news agency.
04:09 GMT – New Zealand says everyone entering country must self-isolate to contain coronavirus
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday that everyone entering the country from midnight on Sunday must self isolate for 14 days in an effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
People from small South Pacific island countries, which currently have no reported cases, will be exempted, Ardern said in a news conference.
New Zealand has a large South Pacific islander population.
All cruise ships will also be told not to come to New Zealand until June 30, she said.
Ardern said these were “far-reaching and unprecedented” measures to tackle a global pandemic. New Zealand has six confirmed cases and has not recorded any deaths. (Reuters news agency)
04:03 GMT – Colombia shuts border with Venezuela
Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez has ordered the border with Venezuela closed as part of the country’s coronavirus containment measures.
As of Friday, there were nine coronavirus cases in Colombia, and at least two cases in Venezuela.
The two countries share a 2,200-km (1,370-mile) border that is crossed by thousands of Venezuelans each day, searching for food and medicine.
More than 4.5 million Venezuelans have left their country in recent years amid its economic crisis, many arriving in Colombia.
04:03 GMT – US military to halt domestic travel
The US military has announced that it will halt all domestic travel, with some exceptions, for service members, defence department civilians and their families amid the fast-spreading coronavirus.
The memo, signed by the deputy secretary of defence, David Norquist, said the policy would go into effect on Monday through May 11, according the Reuters news agency.
It added that exceptions could be granted for mission essential travel, travel necessary for humanitarian reasons and travel warranted due to extreme hardship.
03:59 GMT – Czech govt closing most shops, restaurants
The Czech government will shut most shops and restaurants from 6am local time on Saturday as part of measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, it said in an overnight statement.
Exceptions on the shop ban will include food stores, pharmacies and petrol stations.
03:05 GMT – Cambodia bans entries of foreigners from five countries
Cambodia has announced a ban on the entry of foreigners from Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the US for 30 days, the Khmer Times reported on Saturday.
The ban will take effort on Tuesday, March 17. There are an estimated seven cases reported in Cambodia.
02:25 GMT – China coronavirus death toll hits 3,189
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 on the mainland so far to 80,824.
The death toll from the outbreak in 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.
02:13 GMT – Philippines reports sixth coronavirus death
The Philippine Department of Health announced on Saturday the death of another coronavirus patient – the first reported from the southern island of Mindanao.
The health department statement said that a 54-year-old resident of Metro Manila died on Friday night at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center in the city of Cagayan de Oro.
The Philippines has at least 64 confirmed coronavirus cases. President Rodrigo Duterte has imposed a lockdown of the capital Metro Manila beginning on Sunday.
01:15 GMT – Mexican coronavirus tally increases to 26
Mexico has registered a rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 26 from 15 a day earlier, Reuters news agency reported on Saturday, quoting the Mexican health ministry.
There have been reports that Mexico is considering measures at its northern border to slow the spread of the virus from the United States.
Earlier, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell was quoted as saying that the contagion from the United States was a threat.
23:47 GMT Friday – Mauritania confirms first coronavirus case
Mauritania’s health ministry confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the West African country in a statement on Friday, according to Reuters news agency.
23:10 GMT Friday – UK plans to ban mass gatherings next week
The United Kingdom is planning to introduce emergency laws next week to ban mass gatherings in an attempt to curb the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters news agency reported, citing Sky News late on Friday.
“We have drafted emergency legislation to give the government the powers it needs to deal with coronavirus, including powers to stop mass gatherings and compensate organisations,” Sky News quoted the source as saying, according to the report.
Coronavirus: Contract workers fear loss of income
I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur.
You can read all the updates from yesterday (March 13) here.