The UME (Emergency Army Unit) attend the train station in Granada, Spain Tuesday March 17, 2020. Police checked passports and IDs at the Pyrenees' border with France and along the 1,200 kilometer shared border with Portugal, as Spain re-established controls for incoming and outgoing travellers to stem the new COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. - Sputnik International

Live Updates: Eurovision, Glastonbury Scrapped, Nations Put on Lockdown Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

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Over 11,500 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) globally over the past day, bringing the total number of confirmed cases above 179,000, while the number of deaths has surpassed 7,500, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in its latest report.

The outbreak of coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has made many countries across the globe start imposing travel restrictions, closing public places, banning gatherings, and even placing entire cities under quarantine.

The disease has quickly spread from China to more than 150 countries and territories since December, with the World Health Organisation declaring the outbreak a pandemic last week.

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02:36 GMT 19.03.2020
02:18 GMT 19.03.2020
01:52 GMT 19.03.2020
00:40 GMT 19.03.2020
22:40 GMT 18.03.2020
20:45 GMT 18.03.2020

The German Interior Ministry imposed further restrictions on entry into the country as part of the fight against coronavirus, extending the previously introduced norms to intra-European air routes and shipping, said the spokesman for the department, Steve Alter, said.

20:15 GMT 18.03.2020
18:58 GMT 18.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Austria will reimpose temporary border controls with Germany starting midnight, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said Wednesday.

"The implementation of border controls with Germany is another of many protective measures aimed at containing the coronavirus," he was quoted as saying by the APA news agency.

The controls will stay in place until April 7. Anyone wishing to enter Austria will be asked to present a medical certificate. Austrians returning home will be expected to self-isolate for 14 days. The measure will not affect commuters and goods traffic.

Austria has 1,646 confirmed coronavirus infection cases, with 11,977 people tested. Four patients have died from virus-related complications, and nine have recovered. Globally, the infection tally passed 200,000 on Wednesday.

18:57 GMT 18.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - A discrepancy in the coronavirus death rate across Europe is linked to varying approaches to testing and ability to detect mild cases, as well as the time evolution of the outbreak itself and age structure of the population, Michael Ryan, the executive director of the WHO health emergencies program, said on Wednesday.

The statement was made at a briefing in response to a request to explain why the death rate across Europe is "so variable," with 11 percent in Italy – which may soon overtake China’s Hubei in terms of the number of deaths – and closer to 1-2 percent in its neighbouring countries.

"There are a number of factors to explain that. But certainly one of them is testing. If you look at Germany … they have a very aggressive testing process. They’ve tested and confirmed over 6,000 cases with just 13 deaths," Ryan replied, noting that the aggressive testing helped to detect more mild cases.

The second issue, he went on, is the "time evolution" of the outbreak.

"Italy - having experienced the first wave of major transmission, much earlier than other European countries - is now experiencing those deaths because a lot of people reach a point where they can no longer be saved in the clinical system. So, therefore, deaths occur sometimes two, three-four weeks after the infection starts," he explained.

Another factor has to do with the age profile of the population, the WHO official added, noting that Italy has a higher proportion of very elderly people than other EU countries.

The standard of care provided also plays a role, as it cannot be maintained at a good level when a health care system is overwhelmed with great numbers of patients in need, Ryan stated.

18:53 GMT 18.03.2020

BELGRADE (Sputnik) - A man who was under self-isolation on suspicion of having contracted COVID-19 in Croatia has died, potentially becoming the first coronavirus-related death in the country, regional health officials confirmed on Wednesday during a press conference aired by state broadcaster HRT.

Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Health announced that 81 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country since the start of the outbreak. Five people have recovered after contracting the disease, while roughly 10,000 people are currently in self-isolation, the ministry reported.

"During the night, a 70-year-old man from the village of Brtonigla died. He had no serious symptoms. The man was in contact with an infected person. On Tuesday, after showing symptoms, the man was given the chance to be hospitalized, but he refused," the broadcaster quoted Aleksandar Stojanovic, the head of the Istria County Public Health Department, as saying.

Stojanovic confirmed that further tests would be conducted to confirm whether or not the individual had contracted the disease.

"We cannot right now confirm that the death was caused by the coronavirus disease. We will find out when we get the test results," he stated as quoted by the broadcaster.

Croatian authorities have taken stringent measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. All public events have been cancelled, schools were ordered to close for two weeks, and border restrictions have been imposed as ministers rush to prevent the surge of cases observed in other European countries.

18:52 GMT 18.03.2020

TORONTO (Sputnik) - Canada’s total number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) disease has jumped by more than 30% to 598, Canada’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Theresa Tam said during a press briefing.

The death toll across the country now stands at 8, Tam said.

"As of right now, there are 598 cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths in Canada," Tam told reporters on Monday.

18:50 GMT 18.03.2020

PARIS (Sputnik) - France registered 1,400 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours bringing the total of 9,134, while deaths increased by 89 during the same period to total 264, Health Minister Jerome Salomon said Wednesday.

"We now have 9,134 patients ... 264 people died," Salomon said during a daily briefing.

On 11 March, the World Health Organization announced the outbreak of the new coronavirus COVID-19 as a pandemic.

According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, a total of 203,529 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed so far in 157 countries, with death toll worldwide reaching 8,205 people.

18:48 GMT 18.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - A sound engineer who works for RT France has tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), RT and Sputnik Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan stated on her Telegram channel on Wednesday.

"A sound engineer of our French channel has contracted the coronavirus disease," Simonyan wrote.

She added that all employees who came into contact with the individual are now in quarantine.

On Tuesday evening, health authorities in France confirmed that 7,730 cases of COVID-19 have been registered in the country since the start of the outbreak, with 175 deaths. More than 1,000 new cases were confirmed in the preceding 24 hours.

17:28 GMT 18.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - All the schools across the United Kingdom will close on Friday afternoon, after lessons, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson said.

The UK's case count exceeds 2,600, with 104 fatalities.

"I want to provide parents, students and staff with the certainty they need. After schools shut their gates on Friday afternoon they will remain closed until further notice. This will be for all children except to those of key workers and where children who are most vulnerable," Williamson told UK lawmakers, as quoted by The Telegraph.

17:26 GMT 18.03.2020

ST. PETERSBURG (Sputnik) - Biocad, a pharmaceutical company based in Russia's St. Petersburg, has joined the quest for developing a vaccine against the novel coronavirus strain that triggered the COVID-19 pandemic and will use its previous research on cancer vaccines as its foundation, its press service said on Wednesday.

"The biotechnological company Biocad has announced that it has begun research into creating an mRNA vaccine against SARS-COV-2 (coronavirus). The development will be based on previous developments on the creation of mRNA-oncovaccines," the press service said, adding that "the initial tests on animals will take place it the end of April."

The company said it was going to develop three types of vaccines, which, thanks to the advantages of mRNA vaccines over traditional ones, would take a relatively short amount of time.

According to Biocad Director General Dmitry Morozov, of the 66 pharmaceutical companies worldwide that are currently working on tackling the coronavirus disease pandemic, 51 are trying to develop a vaccine and 15 others are developing therapeutics based on DNA/RNA molecules.

It is believed that it is cheaper and faster to develop mRNA vaccines than traditional ones. They work by introducing sequences of molecules designed to make cells produce disease-specific antigens and trigger a regular immune response.

Nevertheless, a vaccine is expected to become publicly available no sooner than 12-18 months from now, the World Health Organization has warned, so the public health priority at the moment, therefore, is to slow down the spread.

As of Wednesday, the global tally of COVID-19 has surpassed 200,000 cases, with over 8,000 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.

17:21 GMT 18.03.2020
17:19 GMT 18.03.2020
16:57 GMT 18.03.2020

BERLIN (Sputnik) - Germany suspended refugee reception programs due to the coronavirus epidemic in Europe, but said they would resume as soon as the situation improved, Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter said on Wednesday.

"Yesterday, the Interior Ministry asked the BAMF [Federal Office for Migration and Refugees] to suspend the resettlement process within the framework of the 'one-for-one' mechanism with Turkey, as well as Germany's resettlement program, due to traffic restrictions and the decisions of important partners such as the International Organization for Migration. The programs have actually already been stopped," Alter said at a press conference.

All programs will be relaunched as soon as the situation allows, he added.

When asked whether the measure would only apply to refugees arriving from Turkey, he said that all programs were affected.

"This is not a general, isolated solution, it’s just because we do not have an actual opportunity, because our partners are not available, there are restrictions on movement. This is an adjustment to the real situation that we are experiencing," he added.

At the same time, he said that despite the ban on entry for foreigners, which EU countries had agreed to earlier in the week, refugees could still enter Germany as an exception.

16:55 GMT 18.03.2020

PARIS (Sputnik) - A plane full of medical equipment from China landed in France Wednesday morning and another is expected on Thursday to help the country tackle its coronavirus outbreak, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday.

"It is a gesture that must be appreciated," Le Drian said in an interview with French TV channel BFMTV.

According to Le Drian, the plane came loaded with about one million masks, a precious commodity for medical staff at the frontline of the pandemic, among other medical equipment.

The foreign minister said that China was replying in kind to France’s gestures of solidarity when China was undergoing its most severe episodes of the outbreak.

Reports emerged over the past week that China similarly directed medical equipment and staff to Iran, Italy and Spain, which have become hotspots for the outbreak.

The World Health Organization last week declared that Europe has become the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, not long before China announced that the peak of its own outbreak was over.

16:49 GMT 18.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand have joined the World Health Organization's international 'Solidarity' trial for comparing untested COVID-19 treatments and finding the most efficient ones, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.

16:43 GMT 18.03.2020

BERLIN (Sputnik) - A curfew was imposed on Wednesday in the German town of Mitterteich in southern Bavaria after the number of coronavirus cases there spiked this week.

"District administrator Wolfgang Lippert announced at a press conference that a curfew will be in effect in the Mitterteich area," the Tirschenreuth district administration said in a press release.

The curfew took effect immediately and will last until at least 2 April. Residents caught outside their homes will be ordered to go back if they are not on their way to work, a pharmacy or other place on the list of exemptions.

Bavaria was the first German state to report coronavirus infections at a car parts firm in January after it was visited by a Chinese colleague. The country now has more than 8,000 COVID-19 patients, and 12 people have died.

16:41 GMT 18.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The global number of COVID-19 cases has surpassed 200,000, with over 8,000 fatalities, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.

"More than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported to WHO, and more than 8000 people have lost their lives. More than 80% of all cases are from two regions — the Western Pacific and Europe," Tedros said at a briefing, as quoted on the WHO website.

The WHO chief called for implementing physical distancing measures, stepping up testing, and tracing every contact.

16:40 GMT 18.03.2020

SEVASTOPOL (Sputnik) - Coronavirus situation in Russia is under control, the Russian authorities will step up efforts to combat the deadly infection, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.

“Thank God, in general, everything is under control for now. I hope it will be so in the future. We will increase these [anti-coronavirus] efforts," Putin said at a meeting with public representatives from Crimea and Sevastopol.

The Russian president reaffirmed that he had instructed the government and the regions to prepare proactive anti-coronavirus measures and introduce them as necessary.

16:34 GMT 18.03.2020
16:28 GMT 18.03.2020
16:20 GMT 18.03.2020

ANKARA (Sputnik) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Turkish citizens on Wednesday to avoid leaving home without any urgent need for three weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

He made this statement soon after Turkey, where the total number of coronavirus cases nears 100, registered the first COVID-19-related death.

"We should all respect the temporary restrictions as much as possible. The damping of the virus spread depends on the level we reduce our social contacts. No citizen should leave home for three weeks without acute need, no citizen should communicate with anybody until the threat is eliminated," Erdogan told reporters.

16:15 GMT 18.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak will cause further disruption and deaths in the coming weeks and months, and the situation will deteriorate further as health care facilities become increasingly stretched, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a speech to an almost-empty lower house of parliament on Wednesday.

Roughly 30 members of the lower house and five ministers were in attendance as Sanchez spoke. Other lawmakers watched the speech remotely. The podium at which the prime minister and other parliamentary faction leaders spoke was cleaned with disinfectant after each lawmaker concluded their comments.

"A pandemic is a medical, social and economic emergency. It is an unprecedented challenge. The measures are very strict, but they are necessary and in proportion. The worst is yet to come. It will be when our health care system will face the highest number of infections when people will be isolated for a long time when the economic consequences of the emergency are felt," the prime minister stated.

Sanchez expressed his regret at the government’s initial response to the disease, adding that ministers would have acted differently if they had known the catastrophic epidemiological impact of COVID-19 in advance.

"If we knew then what we know now, the world would have acted differently. The pandemic has outpaced everyone’s forecasts, including the World Health Organization," Sanchez remarked.

On Tuesday evening, Sanchez announced a 200 billion euro ($217.3 billion) stimulus package to provide economic relief for those most at risk. This sum is approximately 20 percent of Spain’s gross domestic product, and over half of the funds will come directly from the state.

The funds will be used to ensure food, electricity and gas supplies, and will also support businesses impacted by the ongoing outbreak.

"The virus hits all of us. It is an unprecedented challenge, a challenge that compels us to take emergency measures. The virus has changed our way of life. It kills people and crushes companies," the prime minister stated.

Spain is second only to Italy in terms of the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a European country. On Wednesday, health authorities in Spain announced that 2,538 new cases of COVID-19 were registered in the preceding 24 hours, raising the overall total since the start of the outbreak to 13,716. The death toll has risen to 598.

16:09 GMT 18.03.2020
16:03 GMT 18.03.2020

NEW YORK (Sputnik) - A total 1,339 people in New York City tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) while the hospitalization rate across the state is 23 percent, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

"That's the rate of cases, flowing into the healthcare system - 23 percent," Cuomo added.

16:01 GMT 18.03.2020

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - All 67 counties in the US state of Florida should have at least one mobile site to test for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) open by Friday, Senator Rick Scott said in a statement on Wednesday.

"This is great news for these communities! Getting mobile testing sites up and running is the most important thing we can do to stem the spread of this virus. Every county in Florida and across the country should have at least one mobile testing site up and running by Friday," Scott said via Twitter.

16:00 GMT 18.03.2020

TORONTO (Sputnik) - Canada will provide up to C$82 billion ($56 billion USD) in economic support for Canadian households and business amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday.

"The measures we are announcing today will provide up to C$27 billion dollars [$18.6 billion USD] in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses, plus C$55 billion [$37.8 billion USD] to meet liquidity needs of Canadian businesses and households through tax deferrals to help stabilize the economy," Trudeau said.

"Combined this C$82 billion in support represents more than three percent of Canada’s GDP."

15:53 GMT 18.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Pobeda, a low-cost airline belonging to Russia’s flagship carrier Aeroflot, said on Wednesday that it would halt flights to Dubai after the government ordered the suspension of air traffic with a number of countries, including the United Arab Emirates, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak.

"Starting March 20, 2020, low-cost airline Pobeda suspends flights from Moscow to Dubai in connection with flight restrictions introduced by the Russian government," the airline said.

At the moment, the company is focused on efforts to bring back customers from countries on the travel ban list, the statement added.

To airlift customers from Dubai, Pobeda plans to perform four flights, with their schedule published on the company’s website.

15:45 GMT 18.03.2020

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The US state of Maryland registered 85 confirmed cases of infection with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on Wednesday, 28 more than the day before, Governor spokesperson Mike Ricci said in a statement.

"Today's daily count from the Maryland Health Department shows that Maryland has 85 confirmed cases of COVID-19," Ricci said via Twitter. "We have added 28 to our count since yesterday."

Data from Maryland's Department of Health revealed that more than 50 cases have been registered in two counties, which include the biggest and closest suburbs of the US capital of Washington.

Sixty patients tested positive are between 19 and 64 years old, while another 25 are older than 65, it said.

15:38 GMT 18.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - German carmaker BMW has ordered its factories in Europe and South Africa to close for a month because of the coronavirus pandemic, the company's CEO, Oliver Zipse, said on Wednesday.

"From today, we will shut down our European car factories and the Rosslyn factory in South Africa," Zipse said, as quoted by The Guardian, adding that the suspension of operations would be in place until April 19.

The affected plants account for about half of the company's production.

BMW expects the coronavirus to have a negative effect on its financial results this year, with CFO Nicolas Peter saying that the company's pretax profit this year would be significantly lower than the last year's 7.1 billion euros ($7.74 billion).

"The measures regarding the Corona virus will significantly impact our business in the current year. Short-term, we are especially focusing on stabilizing liquidity and our result," Peter said in a statement.

15:23 GMT 18.03.2020
14:52 GMT 18.03.2020

GENEVA (Sputnik) - Switzerland is introducing restrictions on sales of certain over-the-counter medications, including aspirin and paracetamol, for six months amid the COVID-19 pandemic, one person will be allowed to buy one package only, under the decision of the Swiss government.

"Doctors, pharmacies and other facilities empowered to distribute medications can give to a consumer only one package per one purchase," the decision of the government, signed by Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga, read.

The restrictions come into force on 14:00 local time (13:00 GMT) on Wednesday. The new rules will apply to aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, diclofenac, medication containing mefenamic acid, opiate alkaloids and opiates with expectorants.

14:27 GMT 18.03.2020

The number of people who have tested positive in the United Kingdom for coronavirus has increased to 2,626, the country's health ministry said on Wednesday.

So far, Britain has reported 71 deaths from the coronavirus.

14:16 GMT 18.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Russia’s flagship carrier Aeroflot announced that it suspended flights to the capitals of Egypt, Lebanon and Hungary after the relevant countries imposed travel restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

According to the statement, Aeroflot will temporarily suspend flights between Moscow and Cairo (from March 22-31), Budapest (from March 23 to April 30) and Beirut (from March 18-29).

All the three countries announced earlier in the week that they would suspend air travel to contain the virus spread.

14:13 GMT 18.03.2020
14:11 GMT 18.03.2020

HELSINKI (Sputnik) - The health authorities of Finland have registered 40 new cases of COVID-19 in the country over past 24 hours, which brings the total number of those infected to 359, the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) said on Wednesday.

As of Tuesday, the number of coronavirus infected people stood at 319.

"To date, 359 laboratory-confirmed cases of the new coronavirus have been registered in Finland," the statement said.

On 11 March, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the new coronavirus a pandemic. Nearly 200,000 cases in over 150 countries and territories have been confirmed. The majority of the patients have recovered, but nearly 8,000 have died.

Italy remains the biggest hotbed of infection in Europe with 31,506 cases, followed by Spain (11,178), France (7,730), Germany (7,156), Switzerland (3,028), and the United Kingdom (2,626).

14:08 GMT 18.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Russia's federal communication watchdog agency Roskomnadzor on Wednesday warned of the legal consequences for spreading false information about COVID-19.

"In light of the discovered cases of misinformation about the coronavirus infection being spread in Russia's media landscape, Roskomnadzor warns the media and internet websites working within the Russian territory and/or aimed at the Russian audience, about the legal liability," the watchdog said in a statement.

Roskomnadzor added that it is constantly monitoring the mass media, social networks and video hosting platforms for fake news aimed at creating panic and causing civil unrest among Russian citizens.

13:52 GMT 18.03.2020

Forty-nine US troops are currently infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Defence Department said in a press release on Wednesday.

Data in the release showed 49 cases of US troops infected with the disease, with three hospitalised and seven recovered.

Seven defence contractors have also tested positive for COVID-19, the release said.

Moreover, the release showed that 14 civilian workers and 19 dependents within the Defence Department are infected with COVID-19.

13:40 GMT 18.03.2020
13:30 GMT 18.03.2020
12:52 GMT 18.03.2020

Brazil's national security advisor Augusto Heleno said in his Twitter account that he has tested positive for coronavirus.

Heleno is currently under quarantine at his home while waiting for a second-test confirmation.

12:49 GMT 18.03.2020
12:48 GMT 18.03.2020

 Italian online shopping, education and entertainment services are overflowing with promotions and special offers to support people boxed up in their houses during the nationwide quarantine while health workers continue to struggle every day with the growing number of COVID-19 cases.

Italy has been on lockdown since March 9. All movement of people is banned unless necessary for work, health or other serious reasons proven by a document. Schools, universities and other public places are closed, assemblies prohibited, and all shops — except for those selling goods of primary necessity and pharmacies — are closed.

In order to facilitate remote work for business and the self-employed and provide free access to e-learning and entertainment platforms for the quarantined masses, the Italian Ministry of Technological Innovations and Digitalization launched a "digital solidarity" project.

Under the initiative, hundreds of online platforms will be offering their services for free or give discounts until April.

For example, online schools — Scuola 365, Edu Job, Babbel, Little Genius, Power of Knowledge, MyLearn, Yeschool, Teachcorner and others — will offer free courses and online tutoring in various disciplines. A dozen publishing houses, including Mondadori, Smart Tales, Edizioni Ensemble, Youcanprint and Bertonieditore, are giving out one e-book for free every day. Plenty of platforms — such as Connexia, Geo Badge, CVing, Sirius, Server Plan, Mobisystems and many others — will make available tools for businesses to organize remote work for their employees.

In addition, the government launched the #illavorocontinua ("work continues") website that offers free webinars with experts speaking every day about all issues related to smart working and the current emergency.

12:19 GMT 18.03.2020

Germany has recorded over 1,000 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of patients to just two shy of 8,200, Lothar Wieler, the president of Robert Koch Institute for disease control, said on Wednesday.

"As of midnight on Wednesday [23:00 GMT on Tuesday] ... the number of confirmed cases stood at 8,198 that is 1,042 cases more than a day before," Wieler said during a press conference.

The official said the number of cases was growing exponentially.

According to Wieler, the number of COVID-19 patients in Germany could grow to 10 million in two or three months if citizens ignore the precautionary measures in place.

"If we do not do it — [do not] follow the program we developed, the measures that we recommend, which the government presented a few days ago, — if we do not significantly reduce the number of social contacts, it is possible that in two or three months, we will have up to 10 million infected people in Germany with a significant overload of the health system," Wieler said.

In Germany, the western North Rhine-Westphalia state has been hit hardest by the virus, followed by the southern Baden-Wurttemberg state and Bavaria. These states have registered more than 1,000 cases each.

12:18 GMT 18.03.2020

Japan has decided to revoke visas already issued for citizens of almost all European countries, Iran and Egypt, and will also impose a mandatory two-week quarantine for arrivals from these countries, as the global number of COVID-19 cases is growing, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday.

"Due to the spread of the virus, it has been determined that it is necessary to further strengthen quarantine measures for 38 countries, such as Iran and Egypt, as well as European countries, including all Schengen member states ... Single and multiple entry visas already issued for people from these countries will be invalidated," Abe said at the coronavirus response meeting broadcast by his office’s website.

The prime minister added that people arriving from the listed countries should self-isolate at government-designated places. The measures are identical to those previously taken by the Japanese government for China and South Korea and will be in place from 21 March until late April.

11:56 GMT 18.03.2020

"Today I'm working from home too after I woke up with a heavy cold," German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Twitter.

11:44 GMT 18.03.2020

The first case of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the East African nation of Djibouti, Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf said on Wednesday.

"A Spanish national who arrived in Djibouti on Saturday, March 14 has been tested positive for COVID-19, and is currently in quarantine under medical supervision," Youssouf tweeted.

Unlike other regions of the world, Africa until now seemed to have been spared from the pandemic. However, since the beginning of the week, the virus has been spreading rapidly throughout the continent.

11:27 GMT 18.03.2020
11:13 GMT 18.03.2020
11:08 GMT 18.03.2020

The Australian government has issued an advisory banning international travel for all citizens, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday at a press briefing as countries around the world close their borders and impose travel restrictions as part of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“We are upgrading the travel ban on Australians to level four for the entire world. That is the first time that has ever happened in Australia’s history. The travel advice to every Australian is do not travel abroad, do not go overseas. That is a very clear instruction,” the prime minister stated.

The bulk of COVID-19 cases could be traced to Australian citizens returning from other countries, making a ban on foreign travel a crucial measure in curbing the disease’s spread, the prime minister stated.

“The biggest risk we have had and the biggest incidence of cases that we have had … has been from Australians returning from overseas, from many countries that you wouldn’t have expected that to be a source,” Morrison remarked.

The prime minister also announced additional measures to provide relief for the health care and aviation industries. The government has announced that it will waive a number of regulatory charges for airlines, and up to 20,000 international student nurses currently enrolled in programs in Australia will be called upon to work in the country's clinics and hospitals.

11:05 GMT 18.03.2020

The forthcoming presidential election in Poland might be postponed if the authorities decide to declare a state of emergency in the country due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, Michal Dworczyk, the head of the prime minister’s Chancellery, said on Wednesday.

"The government, parliament and president must make decisions depending on the state of emergency. I imagine such a state might be declared should the situation require so," Dworczyk said.

According to the Polish official, it might happen in a matter of a week, albeit the situation in Poland as it is at the moment does not require a state of emergency to be declared.

"We shall see how the situation proceeds. Of course, I can imagine the election being rescheduled due to the necessity to declare a state of emergency. The current system today has no such opportunity," Dworczyk said.

The first round of the Polish presidential election is scheduled for 10 May.

Poland is among the European countries which have banned the entry of foreigners due to the COVID-19 outbreak, along with restoring controls on the Schengen borders, suspending all commercial air and railroad traffic, banning public gatherings of more than 50 people, and shutting entertainment and public food service sites.

10:55 GMT 18.03.2020

The total number of infected people across the country had reached 17,361, a health ministry official told state TV.

10:51 GMT 18.03.2020
10:46 GMT 18.03.2020

Spain's tally of coronavirus cases rose to 13,716 and the number of fatalities rose to 558, Fernando Simon, the head of the country’s health emergency centre, said.

10:30 GMT 18.03.2020
10:24 GMT 18.03.2020

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has introduced temporary restrictions on flights to the UK, the US and the UAE from 20 March, according to the Cabinet website.

"The Russian Ministry of Transport should ensure that from 00:00 on March 20, 2020 Moscow time, a temporary restriction on passenger transportation from Russia to the territory of the United Kingdom, the United States, the United Arab Emirates and vice versa," the report said.

Exceptions will be made for regular flights from Moscow - London, Moscow - New York, Moscow - Abu Dhabi operated via Sheremetyevo International Airport (terminal F).

09:22 GMT 18.03.2020

The first death from complications related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been registered in Moldova, Health Minister Viorica Dumbraveanu said on Wednesday.

"This night, a female patient, staying in the Republican hospital with the coronavirus, passed away. Currently, there are 67 people in Moldova suspected of having the coronavirus, 14 of them children," Dumbraveanu said.

On Tuesday, the Moldovan authorities said that there were about 30 registered COVID-19 cases in the country. Per parliament's decision, the country is in a state of emergency until 17 May.

08:54 GMT 18.03.2020

The Brazilian authorities, as part of their efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus, blocked all federal environmental zones in the country, including the Iguazu National Park and Tijuca National Park in Rio de Janeiro, where the world-famous statue of Christ the Redeemer is located, for at least a week.

08:44 GMT 18.03.2020

President of the Dominican Republic Danilo Medina announced the intention to introduce a state of emergency and shut all borders for 15 days beginning on March 19 as precautionary measures against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

"First of all, tomorrow I will submit to Congress a request for a national state of emergency, and we hope it will be quickly approved. We also decided to close the country's land, sea and air borders for the next 15 days. These and subsequent measures will take effect at 06:00 a.m. [10:00 GMT] on Thursday, March 19," Medina said in a televised address to the nation.

According to the president, starting on Thursday, the country's borders will be open only for aircraft arriving to evacuate foreigners, as well as for cargo and fuel vessels.

The state of emergency prescribes the cancellation of school and university classes until April 13, the ban on any public events, the closure of bars and nightclubs for 15 days and other measures.

Earlier this week, the Dominican Republic suspended flights from European countries, China, South Korea and Iran. The local authorities also included Russia on the list, but air traffic with Russia was temporarily restored.

The Dominican authorities have registered 21 COVID-19 cases and one related death so far. Over 100 people are under medical supervision.

08:37 GMT 18.03.2020

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has ordered to close down the country's famous Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine starting today. All inter-state bus services, both incoming and outgoing, have also been suspended, as part of a preventive measure to curb the spread of COVID-19.

07:29 GMT 18.03.2020

The number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in South Africa has increased by 23 to a total of 85, state-run South African Government News Agency reported on Wednesday, citing Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize.

The minister noted that there had been eight cases of local transmission.

On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of emergency over the COVID-19 concerns. Also, starting Wednesday, South Africa prohibits entry to foreign citizens coming from countries that are highly afflicted by the pandemic, such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, China, and Germany. The South African nationals are discouraged from visiting those countries as well.

07:11 GMT 18.03.2020

The number of cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Portugal has increased to 448 with no fatalities, according to the country's Health Ministry.

Most of the cases — 196 — have been registered in the northern part of the country, with the other 180 being from the central region, where the capital of Lisbon is located. People aged between 30 and 59 appear to be most susceptible.

06:42 GMT 18.03.2020

The number of coronavirus infection (COVID-19) cases in Mexico has increased by 11 over the past 24 hours bringing the total number of patients in the country to 93, the country's general director of epidemiology, Jose Luis Alomia, said.

"The total number of confirmed cases has reach 93. It means 11 news cases over the past 24 hours," Alomia said at a press conference broadcast on Twitter.

According to the official, Campeche remains the only state in Mexico free of COVID-19 infection.

Starting from Tuesday, major universities in the country, where the coronavirus infection was registered among students, began to suspend studies. In schools, classes will be halted starting Wednesday.

On Sunday, the Mexican Education Ministry canceled training and sports activities at all levels of the educational system, including in private schools, for the period from March 20 to April 20.

06:17 GMT 18.03.2020
06:11 GMT 18.03.2020

Vietnam's Health Ministry has registered another case of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which makes the overall number 67, the state-run Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported on Wednesday.

The patient is a 36-year-old Vietnamese national who has recently come back from Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Vietnam has stopped issuing visas to foreign citizens for 30 days starting Wednesday. All foreigners who are eligible for a visa-free entry are now obligated to provide a negative COVID-19 test result to the immigration authorities.

05:55 GMT 18.03.2020

The overall number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Japan has reached 1,594, media reported on Wednesday.

According to the NHK broadcaster, citing the country's Health Ministry and local authorities, the number includes 868 patients detected in Japan, 712 people from Diamond Princess cruise ship and 14 people that were evacuated from China in February.

Meanwhile, Japan's death toll stands at 36. Sixty people remain in serious condition and 679 have been discharged from hospitals upon recovering.

05:05 GMT 18.03.2020

Tunisian President Kais Saied imposed a curfew throughout the country in connection with the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the presidential administration said on Twitter.

"President Kais Saied ordered the introduction of a curfew countrywide from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.," the administration said.

Previous reports said Tunisia was closing all borders due to the coronavirus pandemic.

05:04 GMT 18.03.2020

The first three cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection have been registered in Kyrgyzstan, Health Minister Kosmosbek Cholponbayev said Wednesday.

“Three cases have been registered. All of those infected are residents of the Suzak District of the Jalal-Abad Region,” Cholponbayev said at a press conference.

He said those infected had recently returned to Kyrgyzstan from Saudi Arabia.

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