More than 510,000 people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. Over 120,000 have recovered, while more than 22,000 people have died.
The number of coronavirus cases in Europe topped 250,000, more than half of which are in hard-hit Italy and Spain.
Spain registered 655 fatalities from coronavirus – down from more than 700 on Wednesday, while Italy reported another 712 deaths.
More than three million Americans filed new claims for unemployment insurance last week amid the pandemic, breaking the previous record as the first wave of layoffs battered the US economy.
Here are the latest updates:
Thursday, March 26
20:27 GMT – Control pandemic first, then open economy, Fed chairman says
The United States “may well be in recession”, but progress in controlling the spread of the coronavirus will determine when the economy can fully reopen, US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in a rare network television interview on NBC’s Today Show.
Powell spoke just about an hour before federal data showed a record-breaking spike of unemployment claims to 3.28 million, evidence that “social distancing” to fight the pandemic has taken hold, and may have ended the country’s more than decade-long economic expansion.
Read more here.
20:19 GMT – Fox News slammed for talking hair, nails during pandemic
A Fox News host sparked a firestorm of outrage Thursday by voicing concern over how women are going to get their hair and nails done during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is not a priority, but women have to get their hair done,” Ainsley Earhardt told viewers of US President Donald Trump’s favorite conservative-leaning morning talk show, “Fox and Friends”.
Earhardt said she was talking about trivial everyday worries rather than the life-or-death issues which are of much larger importance.
Social media users described her complaint about the lockdowns and social distancing as “vapid” and “vain.”
20:13 GMT – HRW slams ‘reckless’ Mexican leader over COVID-19
Human Rights Watch accused Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of setting a “dangerous example” amid the coronavirus pandemic by failing to respect social distancing.
Lopez Obrador had initially maintained his routine of public appearances and contact with supporters despite health authorities calling on Mexicans to take more precautions.
“President Lopez Obrador’s behavior in the face of the COVID-19 crisis is a profoundly dangerous example that threatens Mexicans’ health,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.
Late in February, after Mexico’s first case had been confirmed the president “blatantly misinformed the Mexican public, saying: ‘According to the information available, it is not terrible or fatal. It is not even as bad as the flu,'” HRW said.
19:52 GMT – As world struggles to stop deaths, far right celebrates COVID-19
A leader of the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM), a neo-Nazi movement based in northern Europe, said that he welcomed the pandemic as a necessary step to help create the world that his group wants to see.
Read more here.
19:26 GMT – Italy rejects EU’s draft on economic coronavirus response
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he rejected draft proposals prepared by sherpas at a summit of European Union leaders intended to tackle the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
In a statement released by his office while the video conference between the leaders was still ongoing, Conte said the proposals were too timid and he gave the EU 10 days to come up with adequate solutions.
In a speech to the Italian Senate before the summit, Conte called for the launch of European “recovery bonds” aimed at financing “a courageous economic response” to the outbreak that has spread across the world.
19:22 GMT – Costa Rica confirms 30 new coronavirus cases, 231 total
Costa Rica’s Health Minister Daniel Salas said that there are 30 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the Central American nation, bringing the total number or cases to 231.
19:08 GMT – Italy’s latest coronavirus deaths data omits 50 from Piedmont
Italy’s northern Piedmont region said that 50 people had died there from coronavirus in the last 24 hours, numbers which were omitted from the national tally released by the Civil Protection Agency.
The omission means that daily deaths amounted to 712 rather than the 662 officially reported earlier in the day, and marked an increase from the 683 registered the previous day.
18:54 GMT – France reports 365 more coronavirus deaths
France reported that 365 people, including a 16-year-old girl, had died from the coronavirus pandemic over the last 24 hours, the country’s highest daily toll.
Top French health official Jerome Salomon told reporters that a total of 1,696 people had died in hospital in France from the virus, emphasising that the toll does not include those who died at home or at retirement homes.
Salomon added that 29,155 people had tested positive for the virus so far in France, adding that the real number of cases was likely far higher as testing was reserved for high-risk patients.
18:30 GMT – South Africa’s coronavirus cases climb to 927
South Africa’s coronavirus cases rose sharply to 927 from 709 the previous day on the eve of a three-week lockdown.
“As of today, the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Africa have risen by 218. This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 927,” the health ministry said in a statement.
The continent’s most industrialised country goes under a 21-day military-patrolled total lockdown starting midnight Thursday in a bid to control the spread of the virus.
Addressing police officers just before they started deploying, President Cyril Ramaphosa warned people who try to violate the lockdown they will “meet the full might of the law”.
18:00 GMT – Nursing home deaths make up a third of Spanish coronavirus toll
A total of 1,307 elderly residents of Spanish nursing homes have died from coronavirus, roughly one-third of the country’s total death toll, radio network Cadena Ser.
In the Madrid region alone, nursing home deaths totalled 855 since the start of the epidemic, the radio network said, citing data collected by its local stations across Spain.
Nursing homes, whose elderly residents are highly vulnerable to the disease, have been particularly hard hit.
The Spanish government said it was still collecting data from all regions about nursing home deaths and could not confirm or deny the report. The Madrid regional government said the report was “not official data”, which it would share when it was are ready.
17:49 GMT – Coronavirus cases top 500,000 globally
More than 510,000 people around the world have now reported cases of coronavirus.
17:40 GMT – India unveils $23bn package to help poor hit by COVID-19 lockdown
India has announced a $22.6bn economic stimulus plan that provides direct cash transfers and ensures food security measures, offering relief to millions of poor people hit by a nationwide lockdown to withstand the coronavirus pandemic.
The package was announced two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a 21-day lockdown to protect the country’s 1.3 billion people from the new coronavirus. That has triggered supply constraints for essential items and panic buying, leaving the poor and daily labourers most vulnerable.
Read more here.
17:13 GMT – Italy death toll from coronavirus outbreak rises by 662 to 8,165
The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has grown by 662 to 8,165, the Civil Protection Agency said.
However, there appeared to be an error in the agency’s data because it reported no deaths on Thursday in the third-worst-affected region, Piedmont, which would be unprecedented in recent days.
Separately, Piedmont authorities said their death toll had risen by 50 in the last 24 hours.
On Wednesday 683 people died. That followed 743 deaths on Tuesday, 602 on Monday, 650 on Sunday and a record of 793 on Saturday – the highest daily figure since the contagion came to light on February 21.
16:55 GMT – As COVID-19 rages, US slaps new sanctions on Iranian individuals
As Iran struggles to battle the spread of COVID-19, the United States heaped more economic pressure on the country by slapping a fresh round of sanctions on more than a dozen Iranian individuals and five companies.
The sanctions were announced by the US treasury after the family of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing more than a decade ago, said they believed he had died while in custody Iran, citing information from US officials
Read more here.
16:47 GMT – Sweden not closing metropolitan areas amid coronavirus outbreak, for now
Swedish health officials were not currently considering action that would close off main metropolitan areas to stem the coronavirus spread, an approach adopted in neighbouring Finland.
Although most of Sweden’s 2,800 diagnosed cases have affected the main metropolitan areas, “the dissemination has affected all parts of the country,” Public Health Agency epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said.
“It appears that Sweden is coming into a phase where case numbers are rising,” he added.
Compared to its neighbours, Sweden has adopted far less stringent measures to stem the spread of the virus.
16:40 GMT – Honduras registers first death in country from coronavirus
Honduras has registered its first death from the coronavirus outbreak, said on Thursday Francis Contreras, spokesman for the National Risk Management System.
There are 52 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Honduras.
16:35 GMT – First death from coronavirus reported in Kenya
Kenya confirmed its first coronavirus death, government spokesman Cyrus Oguna said, without providing further details.
Earlier the ministry of health reported three more cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of infected people in the East African country to 31.
16:28 GMT – US virus deaths may top 80,000 despite confinement: study
COVID-19 could lead to more than 80,000 deaths in the US and overwhelm hospital capacity nationally as soon as early April even if social distancing measures are respected, new research has showed.
The US death toll for the pandemic has already soared past 1,000, with 68,000 confirmed infections.
16:22 GMT – Coronavirus death toll in Italy’s Lombardy rises by more than 385 in a day – source
The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in the northern region of Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of Italy’s contagion, has risen by more than 385 in a day to around 4,860, a source familiar with the data said.
The figure is up steeply compared to 296 deaths on Wednesday.
16:10GMT – China bars most foreigners to curb imported virus cases
China says it is temporarily barring most foreigners from entering the country as it seeks to curb the number of imported coronavirus cases.
The foreign ministry announced that even foreign citizens with residence permits will be prevented from entering starting on Saturday.
All visa-free transit policies will also be temporarily suspended.
15:50 GMT – Tennis star Nadal calls on Spain’s athletes to raise 11m euros to fight coronavirus
Rafael Nadal has issued a rallying cry and called on Spanish athletes to help raise 11 million euros ($12.07 million) to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Spain is one of the most badly affected countries in the world with over 56,000 cases and the parliament voted to extend the coronavirus lockdown to at least April 12 after the death toll rose to over 4,000.
15:26 GMT – Bangladesh troops on streets to enforce lockdown
Bangladesh on Thursday deployed its army to enforce a nationwide lockdown, asking people to stay at home to stunt the spread of the new coronavirus.
On Wednesday, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced that the government will provide free food and cash for the poor for the next six months.
Hasina also declared an incentive package for the country’s export-oriented garment industry to help pay millions of workers.
15:16 GMT – Russia’s Putin proposes lifting sanctions on essential goods amid coronavirus
Russian President Vladimir Putin told the G20 video-summit on Thursday that participating countries need a common plan to support their economies amid the coronavirus outbreak and he proposed a moratorium on sanctions related to essential goods.
Putin also proposed creating a special fund under International Monetary Fund control to fight the spread of the virus.
15:03 GMT – IATA urges G20 to support airline industry
The International Air Transport Association urged the G20, a group of the 20 major economies, to act quickly to prevent irrecoverable damage to the airline industry that has been shaken by the coronavirus crisis.
In an open letter, on the day G20 leaders were meeting, the world’s largest airline body asked governments to provide, or facilitate financial support for the industry.
“The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic around the globe and the resulting government-mandated border closings and travel restrictions have led to the destruction of air travel demand,” IATA Chief Executive Alexandre de Juniac wrote in the letter.
14:43 GMT – Anyone coughing at UK police, shop workers faces two years in jail
Anyone claiming to have coronavirus who deliberately coughs at emergency workers faces being jailed for two years.
Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill said there had been reports in recent days of people coughing in the faces of police, other emergency workers and shop staff. Those responsible could face charges of common assault, he said.
“Emergency workers are more essential than ever as society comes together to tackle the coronavirus pandemic,” Hill said in a statement.
14:39 GMT – Nine doctors die from coronavirus in Philippines
Nine doctors have died in the Philippines from the coronavirus, the country’s top medical association said, as hospitals were overwhelmed and medics complained about a lack of protection on the frontlines.
The announcement of the doctors’ deaths heightened fears that the scale of the health crisis in the Philippines is much worse than is being officially reported, with the confirmed virus death toll at just 38.
The Philippine Medical Association said a ninth doctor had died of the virus, and that health workers were not getting enough protection.
14:28 GMT – US jobless claims soar beyond 3 million as COVID-19 layoffs hit
More than three million Americans filed new claims for unemployment insurance last week, shattering the previous record as the first wave of coronavirus layoffs hits the United States economy.
Some 3.283 million people filed initial jobless claims for the week ending March 21, the US Bureau of Labour Statistics said on Thursday. The tsunami of layoffs swamped the previous record of 695,000 newly jobless set in October of 1982.
Read more here.
14:16 GMT – Polish priest offers drive-thru confessions to beat coronavirus
A parish priest in western Poland is offering his flock the possibility of Easter confessions from the comfort of their own car as social distancing to fight the coronavirus becomes the new norm.
“We’ve already done a practice run… I have an appointment with a family of five tomorrow and next week I’m due to hear a parishioner confess every sin from his entire life,” Father Adam Pawlowski told AFP news agency.
The priest from the western village of Rogalin plans to park his car in an alley by the church and will roll down his window for the parishioner parked at least 1.5 metres (five feet) away to avoid any potential coronavirus infection.
14:10 GMT – Germany aims to speed up virus diagnosis, treatment
The German Ministry of Education and university hospitals have come together to share knowledge about the new coronavirus and advance new strategies for diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
The alliance aims to carry out work on tests, drugs and a possible vaccine. The initiative is based on a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Germany has increased its ability to test for the new coronavirus to 500,000 a week.
14:03 GMT – Lebanon to impose overnight shutdown to confront coronavirus pandemic – minister
Lebanon will begin an overnight shutdown from 7 pm to 5 am, with some exceptions to be announced later, as it steps up measures to combat coronavirus, Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad said.
Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni has requested that all public institutions suspend work until further notice as part of stricter measures, a Finance Ministry statement said.
13:58 GMT – Norway’s wealth fund has lost $125bn this year: directors
Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s biggest, has lost 1.33 trillion kroner ($125 billion) since the start of 2020 as markets collapse under the COVID-19 pandemic, the fund’s management said.
As of March 25, the fund was valued at 10.1 trillion kroner ($949 billion) after registering a negative return of 16 percent since January.
“It’s a strange time for society, it’s a strange time for the economy, and it’s also a strange time for global financial markets,” the outgoing head of the fund, Yngve Slyngstad, told reporters.
13:54 GMT – India outlines $23bn stimulus to help poor hit by lockdown
India announced a $22.6bn economic stimulus plan that provides direct cash transfers and food security measures, offering relief to millions of poor people hit by a nationwide lockdown withstand the coronavirus pandemic.
The package was announced two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the 21-day lockdown to protect the country’s 1.3 billion people from coronavirus. That led to supply constraints for essential items and panic buying, leaving the poor and daily labourers most vulnerable.
The government aims to distribute 5kg of wheat or rice for each person free of cost, with 1kg of pulses for every low-income family, helping to feed about 800 million poor people over the next three months.
It also intends to hand out free cooking-gas cylinders to 83 million poor families, a one-time cash transfer of $13.31 to 30 million senior citizens and $6.65 a month to about 200 million poor women for next three months.
“We do not want anyone to remain hungry,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told a news briefing.
13:30 GMT – Israeli leaders open up nuclear bunker in war on coronavirus
The Israeli government has opened up a war bunker in the Jerusalem hills to help coordinate its campaign against the spread of the coronavirus.
The bunker, called the “National Management Centre”, was built more than a decade ago because of concern about Iran’s nuclear programme and missile exchanges with Lebanon’s Hezbollah or Palestinian group Hamas.
According to Israeli officials, it includes living quarters and command facilities and can be accessed from the government complex in Jerusalem and the western foothills leading to Tel Aviv.
“This [bunker] is another tool for managing, controlling, oversight and tracking” the coronavirus, said an Israeli official who requested anonymity. “We understand that this crisis will accompany us for an extended period of time yet.”
13:05 GMT – Saudi king urges ‘effective’ G20 response to virus crisis
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman urged G20 leaders to take “effective and coordinated” action to combat the global crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, and called on them to assist developing nations.
“We must have an effective and coordinated response to this pandemic and restore confidence in the global economy,” the king said in his opening remarks as G20 leaders began an emergency online summit.
“It is our responsibility to extend a helping hand to developing countries and least developed countries to enable them to build their capacities and improve their infrastructure to overcome this crisis and its repercussions,” he added.
12:46 GMT – US weekly jobless claims surge to a record 3.28 million
The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits soared to record of more than 3 million last week as strict measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic ground the country to a sudden halt, unleashing a wave of layoffs that likely brought an end to the longest employment boom in US history.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose to 3.28 million in the latest week from a revised 282,000 the previous week, eclipsing the previous record of 695,000 set in 1982, the US Labor Department said on Thursday.
Economists polled by Reuters news agency had forecast claims would rise to 1 million, but estimates ranged to as high as 4 million.
Nearly every state cited COVID-19 for the jump in initial jobless claims, with heavy impacts in food services, accommodation, entertainment and recreation, healthcare and transportation
12:37 GMT – Unanswered questions as Nigeria braces for lockdown
Nigerians are bracing for a partial lockdown from Thursday as authorities try to contain the spread of coronavirus cases in the country of about 200 million people.
Read more here.
12:05 GMT – Swiss coronavirus cases top 10,000, with 161 deaths
Switzerland has 10,714 confirmed coronavirus infections and 161 people have died of the disease, the Federal Office of Public Health said.
The numbers were up to date as of 07:15 GMT, it said.
11:48 GMT – Coronavirus tally rises to 840 in Russia
The number of the coronavirus cases in Russia rose to 840 with 182 confirmed diagnosis over the last 24 hours, authorities said.
Overall, two people, both in Moscow, have died while 38 recovered, according to the latest figures on the official online portal for COVID-19 information.
Moscow also takes the lead in the number of cases as more than half of all the coronavirus patients reside in the capital. Similarly, 136 of 182 new infections were reported there.
11:29 GMT – Five things to watch in lockdown
From the woman hunting Boko Haram to the children of the US opioid crisis – films to take your mind off coronavirus.
Read more here.
11:06 GMT – UK flight brings back stranded citizens from Peru
The first British-government chartered British Airways flight from Peru landed, bringing back stranded citizens, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said.
11:04 GMT – Saudi Arabia releases 250 immigration offenders
Saudi Arabia has released 250 foreign detainees held on non-violent immigration and residency offences as part of efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus, the state-backed Human Rights Commission (HRC) said.
“Releasing them for eventual repatriation will help decrease the threat for inmates of the detention centres without compromising public security in any way,” HRC President Awwad al-Awwad said in a statement, adding that more releases were expected.
10:56 GMT – WHO Europe sees ‘encouraging signs’
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) European office said it saw “encouraging signs” as Italy reported a lower rate of infections of the new coronavirus, cautioning it was too early to say whether the worst had passed.
“While the situation remains very serious, we are starting to see some encouraging signs. Italy, which has the highest number of cases in the region, has just seen a slightly lower rate of increase, though it is still too early to say that the pandemic is peaking in that country,” Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, told a press conference.
10:54 GMT – Spain reports 655 more deaths
Spain registered 655 fatalities from the coronavirus over the past 24 hours – down from over 700 on Wednesday, the health ministry reported as the total death toll from the epidemic in the country rose to over 4,000.
The overall number of coronavirus cases soared to 56,188 from 47,610 on Wednesday. The number of reported deaths from the virus rose to 4,089 from 3,434 on Wednesday, the ministry said.
10:51 GMT – Iran death toll rises to 2,234
A total of 157 people in Iran have died of coronavirus over the last 24 hours, pushing the death toll up to 2,234, said Iranian health authorities.
Health Ministry spokesperson Kianoush Jahanpour said 2,389 people were confirmed to have contracted the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 29,406.
Also, 10,457 people have recovered from COVID-19, according to health officials.
09:48 GMT – Japan PM Abe sets up coronavirus task force
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has established a task force under the country’s revised emergency law to deal with the rise in coronavirus infections and deaths.
It is necessary for people to act as one to overcome what can be described as a national crisis, Abe said in Tokyo.
Japan will ban entry from 21 European countries as well as Iran, to take effect from March 27, Abe said.
09:47 GMT – Uzbekistan locks down two more cities
Uzbekistan is locking down the cities of Namangan and Andijan to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the two cities’ municipal authorities said.
Uzbekistan, which has already locked down its capital Tashkent, has reported 65 cases of the disease, including some in the densely populated Fergana valley where Namangan and Andijan are located.
09:37 GMT – Uganda’s Bobi Wine releases song raising awareness about coronavirus
Ugandan musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine has released a song to raise awareness about the coronavirus pandemic as his country imposes new restriction in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.
Read more here.
09:18 GMT – Malaysia reports 235 new cases
Malaysia reported 235 new coronavirus cases in its biggest daily jump, bringing the total number of cases to 2,031.
The number of deaths from coronavirus rose to 23, the health ministry said.
Malaysia’s total number of cases has now doubled in a week. On Wednesday, the government extended curbs on travel and movement to until April 14th to contain the spread of the virus.
08:52 GMT – Indonesia reports 103 new cases, 20 more deaths
Indonesia has confirmed 103 new coronavirus cases, bringing the Southeast Asian country’s total to 893, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto said.
The number of new deaths due to coronavirus rose by 20, taking the total number of deaths to 78, he said, adding that a total of 35 people had recovered from the virus.
08:36 GMT – Philippines reports 7 new deaths, 71 more cases
The Philippine health ministry reported seven new coronavirus deaths and 71 new confirmed infections.
It brings the country’s confirmed cases to 707 and deaths to 45 so far, among them six doctors, Health Secretary Francisco Duque told a regular news conference.
He said case numbers would rise in the coming days as more tests are carried out.
08:20 GMT – China says no new cases confirmed locally
China’s National Health Commission (NHC) said six more people died of the virus and 67 new cases were confirmed, but all of them were imported.
“Hubei reported no new cases of confirmed infection, no new cases of suspected infections, and 6 deaths, 5 in Wuhan,” the NHC said.
08:09 GMT – South Korea: 97-year-old recovers from coronavirus
A woman, 97, has recovered from the coronavirus after a two-week treatment in South Korea’s Pohang Medical Centre.
She was discharged and placed in self-isolation at home to protect her from re-infection, The Korea Times reported.
The oldest patient on the course of recovery in the same hospital is a 104-year-old woman, the report said.
07:52 GMT – Moscow to close all non-essential shops
Moscow will close all shops except for pharmacies and grocery stores, the city’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.
This measure, which also includes the closure of restaurants, cafes and bars, will last from March 28 until April 5, Sobyanin said in a statement.
07:43 GMT – Nine doctors die from coronavirus in Philippines
Nine doctors have died in the Philippines from the coronavirus, the country’s top medical association said, as hospitals were overwhelmed and medics complained about a lack of protection on the front lines.
The Philippine Medical Association said health workers were not getting enough protection.
“If it were up to me, test the front-liners first and test them again after seven days. Doctors could be carriers themselves,” Benito Atienza, vice president of the Philippine Medical Association, told AFP news agency.
07:37 GMT – UK says 560,000 volunteers signed up to help NHS
Britain’s Health Minister Matt Hancock said 560,000 people had volunteered to help the National Health Service during the coronavirus crisis, more than double the number he had hoped to recruit.
Britain had on Tuesday issued a call for 250,000 volunteers to sign up to help the NHS and vulnerable people hit by the coronavirus crisis.
Writing on Twitter, Hancock called the news “fantastic”.
07:25 GMT – Tokyo reports more than 40 new cases
The Japanese capital of Tokyo reported more than 40 new cases of coronavirus infections for the second day running, Jiji News reported.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike held an emergency news conference to warn of the risk of an explosive rise in infections, asking residents to avoid non-essential outings until April 12.
The city has become the centre of Japan’s coronavirus epidemic, with more than 250 cases.
07:15 GMT – Kashmir registers its first COVID-19 death
A 65-year-old man, who had a recent travel history outside the region, became the first COVID-19 fatality in Indian-administered Kashmir, sparking fear and causing a stricter lockdown.
Rohit Kansal, spokesman for the region’s government, said the “first death due to coronavirus is a 65-year-old man from Srinagar”, he said. The Srinagar man had tested positive two days ago.
Kansal said four of his contacts have also tested positive for the virus.
07:08 GMT – Russia’s Gazprom says 20 workers in isolation at gas field
Gas giant Gazprom said 20 workers have been quarantined at Bovanenkovo gas field, one of its largest in northern Russia, after contact with a person who has coronavirus.
It said the contact occurred on March 16 and the isolation will last until March 30. Production has not been affected.
06:47 GMT – Iran intercity travel ban begins
An intercity travel ban has begun, an Iranian official said in a televised news conference, amid fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections in the Middle East’s worst-hit country.
“Those who have travelled for the Iranian New Year holidays should immediately return to their cities without making any stop in the cities on their way back home,” said Hossein Zolfaghari, a member of Iran’s national headquarters for fighting the coronavirus.
“The closure of universities and schools as well as suspension of gatherings has been extended,” he said, adding that violators of the measures would face legal consequences.
I’ll be handing over this blog to my colleague in Doha shortly.
Here are the main developments this morning:
It was a bit touch and go for a while, but the US Senate has finally passed a $2 trillion relief bill for businesses, workers and healthcare systems affected by the coronavirus. Now it goes back to the House of Representatives.
A number of countries are preparing to impose emergencies (Thailand) or extend them (Spain).
South Korea says it will deny entry to people travelling from overseas who refuse to download an app that tracks their self-isolation, while China says all its new cases continue to be “imported” – most of them Chinese nationals returning home.
05:35 GMT – China shifts narrative on coronavirus outbreak
With China’s own outbreak of coronavirus appearing to have calmed, the country’s state media is devoting considerable space to championing China’s efforts to help Italy, Iran and other countries that are now struggling to control the disease.
Shawn Yuan, who is in China, has been following the shifting narrative.
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) March 26, 2020
05:25 GMT – Russia to suspend all international flights from March 27
The Russian government has ordered the civil aviation authority to suspend all regular and charter flights to and from Russia from March 27, the government said on its website.
Russian airlines will still be allowed to fly to other countries to bring Russian citizens back or if they are authorised by special government decisions.
05:10 GMT – The $2tn US coronavirus stimulus package: Who benefits?
A relief bill worth a little more than $2 trillion finally made its way through the US Senate on Wednesday; it should receive final approval later this week. Here is more detail on its measures:
- $500bn for a Treasury Department lending facility to support US companies, including airlines, with public oversight
- $350bn for small businesses.
- $100bn for hospitals, nurses and doctors to battle the outbreak
- $150bn for state and local governments
- $300bn in direct payments to most Americans of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child within about three weeks.
- $250bn in federal unemployment benefits of $600 per week for individual employees as well as gig workers and independent contractors
You can find out more about what’s at stake in this story from Al Jazeera’s William Roberts.
05:05 GMT – Nigerian army preparing for strict lockdown, forced transfers of sick
The Nigerian army is preparing to forcibly transfer the sick to hospital and enforce strict controls on movement to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Africa’s most populous country, according to Reuters news agency.
A memo from army headquarters seen by the news agency outlines measures to protect government food storage from looters and says the military is also leasing equipment for “possible mass burial”.
04:25 GMT – Thailand announces 111 new confirmed cases
Thailand has announced 111 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, after declaring a state of emergency to come into effect at midnight (17:00 GMT).
The measures will include the closure of border crossings to everyone except Thai nationals, diplomats and their families, and people with permission to work in Thailand.
The total known cases of the virus now stands at 1,045.
03:30 GMT – US Senate passes $2 trillion coronavirus package
After a series of last-minute hiccups, the US Senate has finally passed a $2 trillion package to support the health system, workers and business hurt by the coronavirus outbreak.
More on that story shortly.
03:30 GMT – Spanish Parliament votes to extend state of emergency until April 11
Spain’s parliament has voted in favour of the government’s request to extend the state of emergency – and a nationwide lockdown – by two weeks.
The emergency was first declared on March 14 and includes strict stay-at-home rules.
More people have died in Spain from COVID-19 than any other country except for Italy.
02:50 GMT – Cases in US near 70,000, with more than 1,000 dead
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US is nearing 70,000, with more than 1,000 people now reported to have died from COVID-19, according to AFP news agency.
More on how each state is handling the outbreak here.
02:45 GMT – Japan to set up coronavirus HQ, possible emergency declaration
Japan’s government is preparing to set up a special headquarters on coronavirus as early as Thursday afternoon, in a move that could set the stage for declaring a state of emergency over the outbreak, the Kyodo news agency reported.
The prime minister can declare a state of emergency if the disease is seen as posing a “grave danger” to lives and if its spread threatens the economy.
02:30 GMT – Overseas arrivals to South Korea to be refused entry without app
Yonhap news agency is reporting that South Korea will deny entry to people arriving in the country from overseas if they refuse to install an app to monitor them while they are in self-isolation.
02:25 GMT – Border closures, flight suspensions leave people stranded
Countries around the world have advised their citizens overseas to return home as quickly as they can as lockdowns accelerate, borders are sealed off, and even transit travel is banned.
But that is easier said than done.
Al Jazeera’s Ian Neubauer spoke to people stuck in limbo at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport.
01:50 GMT – Mexico to suspend all non-essential activity from Thursday
Mexico’s Deputy Health Minister Dr Hugo Lopez-Gatell says all non-essential activities in the country will be suspended from Thursday.
Mexico has reported 475 confirmed cases of coronavirus and six deaths.
01:20 GMT – South Korea cases rise by 104, five more deaths
South Korea’s just given its latest update, confirming 104 new cases, bringing the total to 9,241, with five more deaths.
Some 414 people were discharged from hospital after making a full recovery. In all, 4,144 people in South Korea have been cured of the virus.
00:10 GMT – China cases climb again; all from overseas
Mainland China has reported a further increase in coronavirus cases – all of them in people returning to the country from overseas.
The National Health Commission reported 67 new cases as of the end of Wednesday, compared with 47 a day earlier.
The number of deaths rose by six to 3,287.
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) March 26, 2020
00:00 GMT – Trump administration cut CDC China staff
Reuters news agency is reporting that the administration of US President Donald Trump cut the staff of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) working in China by two-thirds in the two years before the coronavirus emerged.
Most of the reductions were at the Beijing office. The CDC’s headcount in China had dropped from about 47 when Trump took office in January 2017 to about 14 now, Reuters said.
21:59 GMT (Wednesday) – $2 trillion virus rescue bill hits delay in Senate
The $2 trillion economic rescue package to provide aid to American businesses, workers and healthcare systems strained by the coronavirus outbreak has run into last-minute delays in the Senate.
The measure is the largest economic relief bill in US history. More on that story here.
I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic/
Read all the updates from yesterday (March 24) here.
Al Jazeera and news agencies