The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has passed 155,000, driven by a spike in infections in Italy, which announced 3,497 new cases on Saturday. The virus has so far claimed almost 6,000 lives across 154 countries and territories.

Women wear protective masks in response to the spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) in Caracas, Venezuela on March 14, 2020.
Women wear protective masks in response to the spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) in Caracas, Venezuela on March 14, 2020. (Reuters)

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Venezuela orders 'collective quarantine'

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday ordered businesses to close and citizens to remain in their homes in six states and the capital of Caracas starting on Monday to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Exceptions to the plan he called "collective quarantine" include transport, health and food delivery, Maduro said, adding that the total number of confirmed cases rose to 17 from 10.

"There is no other option," he said in televised comments.

"We either go into quarantine or the pandemic could brutally and tragically bring down our country."

Czech Republic restricts movement of people 

The Czech Republic tightened restrictions on Sunday to combat the new coronavirus outbreak, banning people from moving around except for work, essential shopping and other necessary activities until March 24.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis said the new measures would take effect from midnight, adding the government recommended doing work from home or taking holidays.

The country of 10.7 million has confirmed 253 cases of the virus with no deaths reported so far.

The restrictions come a day after the government closed most shops and restaurants for at least 10 days.
Other measures include a ban on nearly all international travel from March 16 and closing schools.

Italy virus toll leaps as global deaths pass 6,000

Italy recorded its biggest daily death toll from the novel coronavirus, which has now claimed over 6,000 lives worldwide, forcing European governments to further tighten controls.

The number of fatalities in Italy shot up by 368 to 1,809 – more than half of all the cases recorded outside China.

The Vatican took the drastic step of cancelling Easter week celebrations as northern Italian leaders warned they were running out of beds and artificial respirators.

Pope Francis left Vatican City on Sunday "on foot, as if on a pilgrimage" to pray in one of Rome's cat hedrals for victims of the coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican said.

Across France and Spain, which have also become European virus hotspots, cafes, shops and restaurants closed.

France had ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses, while Spain went a step further, banning people from leaving home except to go to work, get medical care or buy food.

Cases also spiked in Germany which will introduce border controls with France, Austria, Switzerland, Luxemburg and Denmark from Monday.

African nations close borders, cancel flights

Several African countries on Sunday closed borders, cancelled flights and imposed strict entry and quarantine requirements to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, which has a foothold in 26 nations on the continent as cases keep rising.

"The government is suspending travel for all persons coming into Kenya from any country with reported coronavirus cases ... only Kenyan citizens, and any foreigners with valid residence permits will be allowed to come in provided they proceed on self-quarantine," President Uhuru Kenyatta told the nation in a televised address.

In west Africa, Ghana will from Tuesday ban entry to anyone who has been to a country with more than 200 cases in the last 14 days, unless they are an official resident or a Ghanaian national.

In southern Africa, Namibia ordered schools to close for a month following two confirmed cases of coronavirus announced on Saturday.

Other nations have also shuttered schools, cancelled religious festivals and sporting events to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Kenya and Ethiopia have now recorded three and four cases respectively, authorities in each nation said on Sunday, two days after they both reported their first case.

Djibouti, which has no confirmed case of COVID-19, announced on Sunday it is suspending all international flights. Tanzania, which also has no cases yet, cancelled flights to India and suspended school games.

As of Sunday, cases have been reported in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Rwanda, Seychelles, eSwatini, Namibia, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea.

Saudi Arabia closes malls, restaurants, cafes 

Saudi Arabia ordered the closure on Sunday of malls, restaurants, coffee shops and public parks and gardens, while exempting supermarkets, pharmacies and food delivery, in a bid to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Several local municipalities tweeted the directives, which Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said would apply across the country, where 103 infections but no deaths have been reported.

Guatemala registers first death from coronavirus

Guatemala has registered its first fatality from coronavirus infection, an elderly man who had recently visited Madrid, Health Minister Hugo Monroy said on Sunday.

Monroy told a news conference the 85-year-old man returned from Spain without showing signs of illness and that the country had two other cases of confirmed coronavirus infection.

Puerto Rico decrees night-time curfew

The US territory of Puerto Rico on Sunday ordered a 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM curfew to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, the strongest measure yet taken on American soil.

It took effect immediately and lasts until March 30.

"Faced with the possibility of transmission and propagation of the virus, I have ordered the imposition of a curfew for all residents of Puerto Rico," Governor Wanda Vazquez announced in a video message.

"We must take every precaution to ensure that we do not become potential carriers," Vazquez said.

The Caribbean territory of 2.9 million, whose residents are US citizens, also will close many businesses from Sunday until the end of the month, she said.

That includes malls, movie theatres, concert venues, gyms, bars and other businesses that bring together large crowds on the island popular with tourists.

The exceptions will be businesses in the food supply chain, and in the medical care system, as well as drugstores, gas stations, banks, and senior citizens' group homes.

Turkey's coronavirus tally hits 18

Turkey's total number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen to 18, said Turkey's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.

Meanwhile, Turkey's Communications Director, Fahrettin Altun said the government is continuing to take strong measures to confront the coronavirus. 

"The number of cases in Turkey has unfortunately risen to 18 today. We are implementing strong monitoring protocols in our land and sea borders in addition to already strict measures at our airports," he added.

Serbia declares state of emergency

Serbia's president declared a state of emergency Sunday to halt the spread of the coronavirus, shutting down many public spaces and deploying soldiers to guard hospitals.

"From tomorrow, there is no more school, no nurseries, no universities, everything closes, no training, sports... We will close down to save our lives, to save our parents, to save our elderly," said President Aleksandar Vucic. 

Record single-day deaths in Italy

Italy on Sunday recorded 368 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, its highest one-day increase to date, taking the total to 1,809, the most outside China, official data showed.

The number of infections in the Mediterranean country has reached 24,747, a count released to the media by Italy's civil protection service said.

Turkey suspends flights from nine countries

Turkey has suspended flights from Germany, Spain, France, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and Netherlands from 2100 GMT on March 15, according to official statement.

Spain reports 2,000 new virus cases and more than 100 deaths

Spain on Sunday reported some 2,000 new coronavirus cases and more than 100 deaths over the last 24 hours, the latest spike in Europe's second-most affected country after Italy.

The new figures raise Spain's number of Covid-19 infections to 7,753 — and its death toll to 288 — after the government imposed a near-total nationwide lockdown, banning people from leaving home except to go to work, get medical care or buy food.

Turkey closes public libraries, bans Umrah travel

Turkey's Culture and Tourism Ministry announced on Sunday that all public libraries under the ministry will be closed from March 16 to 30 as part of measures to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

Turkey has taken several measures to curb the pandemic such as temporarily closing schools and universities, halting events and public activities, postponing foreign visits, and barring spectators at sports events. 

Turkey so far has confirmed six coronavirus cases in the country. 

Turkish Religious Affairs Ministry said Turkey has banned travel for Umrah pilgrimage, adding that all departures for the purpose were stopped after February 27.

Israel's Netanyahu took precautionary coronavirus test - statement

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was tested for coronavirus as a precautionary measure, his office said on Sunday.

Netanyahu was asymptomatic before undergoing the test, which was also administered to officials working close to him, his office said in a statement.

Coronavirus testing takes time and no results were given in the statement.

Singapore reports 14 new cases

Singapore reports 14 new cases of coronavirus, in biggest daily jump, taking the tally to 226.

Hungary government confirms first death from coronavirus

Hungary's government communication centre on Sunday confirmed the central European nation's first official victim of the new coronavirus, state news agency MTI reported.

A 75-year-old Hungarian national died shortly after being hospitalised with severe pneumonia and a suspected coronavirus infection.

Hungary has 32 confirmed coronavirus cases and 159 people in quarantine, according to government data. The government closed all schools and introduced restrictions on public gatherings this week.

Swiss soccer President Blanc tests positive for coronavirus

The president of Switzerland’s soccer federation has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Swiss federation said 70-year-old Dominique Blanc got the results of a test on Sunday morning and isolated himself at his home.

“I feel pretty good right now and have only mild flu symptoms,” Blanc said in a statement released by the federation. He was tested after developing a sore throat and mild cough.

The headquarters of Swiss soccer in Bern has been closed and staff who had recent contact with Blanc have received medical advice, the federation said.

Philippines isolates Manila to fight coronavirus outbreak

Thousands of police officers and army troops started sealing the Philippines' densely populated capital on Sunday at the start of one of Southeast Asia’s most drastic containment moves against the new coronavirus.

Under monthlong restrictions imposed in the entire Manila metropolis — home to more than 12 million people — residents are compelled to stay at home, except when they need to leave for work or go on urgent errands, including medical emergencies.

Police and soldiers set up checkpoints at entryways to Manila to check commuters for fever with thermal scanners on Sunday, snarling traffic all day.

Austria bans gatherings of more than five people

Austria on Sunday banned gatherings of more than five people and told residents to go out only if necessary, in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Police would enforce new restrictions on public life, the government said, threatening fines for non-compliance.

UK to unveil emergency powers on virus this week

Britain’s top health official says the government plans to set out emergency powers this week to deal with the viral outbreak, including requiring elderly to self-isolate and banning mass gatherings.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday the government’s bill laying out its emergency action plan would be unveiled on Tuesday and published on Thursday.

Five members of Valencia squad test positive for coronavirus

Five members of the playing squad and staff of La Liga club Valencia have tested positive for the coronavirus, the Spanish side said on Sunday.

"Valencia CF inform that five positive cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus have been detected amongst first team staff and players," the club said in a statement.

"All of these persons are now at home, in good health and obeying self-isolation measures."

Greece bans all links with Albania, North Macedonia, flights with Spain

Greece said on Sunday it would ban road and sea routes, as well as flights, to Albania and North Macedonia, and ban flights to and from Spain to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

It extended travel restrictions to Italy, saying it was banning passenger ship routes to and from the neighbouring country, excluding cargo.

Greece had three fatalities from the disease and 228 confirmed cases by late Saturday.

Spain, France impose tight controls as global infections pass 150,000

Cafes, shops and restaurants shut down across France and Spain on Sunday and travellers faced chaos at some US airports as measures intensified to restrict the coronavirus pandemic, which has sickened more than 150,000 people and killed almost 6,000.

While France ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses, Spain went a step further and banned people from leaving home except to go to work, get medical care or buy food.

Garay becomes first Liga player known to have coronavirus

Valencia's Argentinian centre-back Ezequiel Garay said on Sunday he had tested positive for coronavirus, becoming the first player in the Spanish Liga known to have the disease.

"It's clear that 2020 has started on the wrong foot," he posted on Instagram alongside a smiling selfie giving the thumbs up. "I tested positive for coronavirus, I feel very well and now all that's left is to do what the health authorities say, which is to isolate myself."

Tourists flood Morocco airports as flights cut over virus fears

Thousands of tourists packed airports in Morocco Sunday hoping to board scarce flights back to Europe after regular air links with some 30 countries were suspended in response to the coronavirus.

Cambodia says French national is eighth coronavirus case in country

A French national travelling from Paris via Singapore to Phnom Penh has been infected with the coronavirus, the Ministry of Health said on Sunday, bringing the country's tally of cases to eight.

Taiwan reports six new coronavirus cases in largest single-day rise, all imported

Taiwan reported six new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, all imported and marking the biggest daily rise in infections, in people who had returned to the island from countries including Spain and Japan, bringing its total tally to 59.

The government is working on tracking down all the people who had contact with the new cases, it said in a statement.

Czech Prime Minister says nationwide quarantine likely

Czech Prime Minister Adrej Babis said the government would likely declare a quarantine for the entire country to fight the coronavirus outbreak, he told a television interview on Sunday.

The cabinet will meet on Sunday afternoon.

"I am convinced that today the government, and I will be proposing it, will take this measure," he said in an interview on Prima television.

He also said it was important for people to only go to and from work and home.

Iran reports 113 new virus deaths, raising total to 724

Iran's death toll from the new coronavirus has reached 724, with 113 new deaths in the past 24 hours, an Iranian health official tweeted on Sunday, adding that some 13,938 people have been infected across the country.

"In the past 24 hours, 1,209 new cases have been confirmed ... with 113 deaths in the past 24 hours, the death toll has reached 724," Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to Iran's health minister, tweeted.

Coronavirus cases in South Africa now at 51

South Africa's total number of coronavirus infections rose to 51 on Sunday, from 38 a day earlier, the health ministry said.

"This means that our numbers have increased by 13 from yesterday's confirmed cases of 38," the ministry said in a statement.

Kazakhstan declares emergency due to coronavirus

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared a state of emergency on Sunday due to the coronavirus outbreak which has reached the Central Asian nation.

The decree published by the president's office restricts entry to and departure from Kazakhstan for everyone except diplomats and those invited by the government. It also introduced a nationwide quarantine.

Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange temporarily closes trading halls over coronavirus

 The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) said on Sunday it was temporarily closing all its trading halls until further notice due to the global coronavirus outbreak.

The ADX said in a statement it was closing trading halls at its main offices in Abu Dhabi and in other emirates as a precautionary measure to protect public health in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The UAE has registered 86 cases of the new coronavirus so far, of which 17 have recovered.

Palestine's Al Aqsa mosque closed as precaution against coronavirus

Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock in Palestine is closed as a precaution against coronavirus, authorities said on Sunday, while outdoor prayers will still be allowed at the complex that houses Islam's third holiest site.

"The Islamic Waqf department decided to shut down the enclosed prayer places inside the blessed Aqsa mosque until further notice as a protective measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. All prayers will be held in the open areas of the Aqsa mosque," the director of Al Aqsa mosque, Omar Kiswani told Reuters.

Malaysia reports 190 new coronavirus cases

Malaysia reported 190 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, most linked to a religious event at a mosque that was attended by more than 10,000 people from several countries.

The new cases bring the total number of infections in the country to 428, the health ministry said in a statement.

Philippines reports 3 more coronavirus deaths, 29 new cases

The Philippines recorded three additional coronavirus deaths and 29 new cases, bringing the domestic tally of infections to 140, as authorities placed the entire capital Manila under "community quarantine" for about a month beginning Sunday.

The latest deaths include an 83-year-old American male with travel history from the United States and South Korea, the Department of Health said in an advisory.

The other two are both Filipinos.

In total, 11 people have died from the virus in the country, a Reuters tally shows.

Turkey quarantines 10,330 Turkish citizens returning from pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia

Turkey's Youth and Sports Ministry announced on Sunday 10,330 Turkish citizens returning from Umrah pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, will be under quarantine in dormitories in Ankara and Konya for 14 days.

Jordan announces six new cases of coronavirus

Jordan confirmed six new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, including one from an American tourist coming from Egypt, the minister of health said.

The kingdom had previously reported only one case of the virus. 

The country is taking measures to fight the outbreak, including a tighter lockdown that closes all borders and bans all incoming and outgoing flights as of Tuesday.

Republic of Congo confirms first coronavirus case

Congo Republic on Sunday confirmed its first case of the coronavirus.

A 50-year-old man who had travelled to the country on March 1 from Paris tested positive, the government said.

The patient is in stable condition and his wife and daughter have been isolated, the government said in a statement. 

Indonesia reports 21 new coronavirus cases, total at 117 

Indonesia reported 21 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 117, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto told local media.

Of the new cases, 19 were detected in Jakarta and two in the Central Java province, Yurianto said.

Vatican says to hold Easter celebrations without congregation due to virus

The Vatican said Sunday that its traditional Easter week celebrations would be held this year without worshippers due to the coronavirus. 

"Because of the current global public health emergency, all the liturgical celebrations of Holy Week will take place without the physical presence of the faithful," the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household said in a statement.

Thailand reports 32 new coronavirus cases, brings total to 114

Thailand reported 32 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total infections in the Southeast Asian country to 114, health officials said.

It was the biggest daily jump in cases in Thailand, which was one of the first countries outside China to report coronavirus infections that has since swept much of the world.

Uzbekistan confirms first coronavirus case

An Uzbek citizen has tested positive for coronavirus after returning from France, Uzbekistan's Healthcare Ministry said on Sunday, marking the first infection from the virus in the Central Asian country of 34 million.

India's coronavirus cases at 107 

India on Sunday reported that the number of coronavirus infections had risen to 107, an increase of 23 from the day before, with a western state home to the country's financial capital the worst hit.

Data from India's federal health ministry showed that there were now 31 confirmed coronavirus cases in Maharashtra state, where local authorities have closed down schools, colleges and malls in most cities, including in the financial hub of Mumbai.

"The number could go up as we are waiting for test reports of people who were in close contact with patients who have tested positive," a state health official said, declining to be named since he isn't authorities to speak to media.

India, a country of 1.3 billion people, has so far fared better than elsewhere in Asia, Europe and North America, with only two deaths because of the virus.

New Jersey city announces curfew amid outbreak

Just across the Hudson River from New York City, a New Jersey city is imposing a curfew on residents amid the virus outbreak.

Hoboken residents must stay in their homes from 10pm to 5am beginning Monday, a daily curfew that's among the first and most far-reaching such measures taken in the US.

Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla announced that exceptions will be made for emergencies and people required to work.

He also said bars and restaurants can only offer takeout and delivery services. Bars that don't serve food will shut down altogether Sunday.

New Jersey has seen 69 virus cases statewide and two virus-related deaths.

Cruise ship in New Zealand awaits virus test

In New Zealand, passengers aboard a cruise ship in the South Island tourist town of Akaroa are not being allowed off the vessel while three passengers are tested for the new coronavirus.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on Sunday that one of the passengers on the Golden Princess is being treated as a suspected case because that person has developed symptoms of the disease and is a close contact of another person who has been confirmed as having contracted Covid-2019.

Bloomfield says they should get the test results on Monday, and that officials are considering their response should the case be confirmed.

El Salvador Congress backs emergency measures

 El Salvador's Congress on Saturday approved a series of emergency measures sought by President Nayib Bukele to prevent the spread of coronavirus into the Central American country and to off the risk of a public health crisis.

The measures include restrictions on entry to and exit from El Salvador, as well as curbs on public gatherings. El Salvador has so far not reported any cases of coronavirus. 

Oregon reports first death from new coronavirus

A man in his 70s has become the first person in Oregon to die from the new coronavirus.

The Oregon Health Authority said the Multonomah County man was hospitalised at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and died Sunday.

The man, who had underlying heath conditions, tested positive for Covid-2019 on March 10, the authority said.

He had no known contact to a confirmed case and had not traveled to another country where the virus is circulating.

Cirque du Soleil closes its Las Vegas shows

Cirque du Soleil says it is temporarily suspending its productions in Las Vegas as well as around the world because of the new coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement on Sunday, the company said it made the decision based on public health authorities calling for people to limit their social interactions to stop the spread of the virus.

In addition to a number of Las Vegas shows, Cirque du Soleil shows in Austin, Texas, Chicago, Houston, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Montreal, Boston, Tel Aviv, Meloneras, Spain, Munich, Costa Mesa, California, Denver, and the Australian cities of Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth also are canceled.

Argentina bans entry to non-residents arriving from coronavirus-hit countries

Argentina banned entry to non-residents who have travelled to a country highly affected by coronavirus in the last 14 days, the government officially announced early on Sunday.

The ban was established for 30 days, according to the decree published in the official bulletin.

The bulletin did not specify which countries would be included in the ban, though Argentina already temporarily stopped issuing visas to travelers from the United States, China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Britain and many European countries.

Argentina now has 45 cases of coronavirus, the health ministry said, up from 21 on March 12.

Australia will impose self isolation on all international arrivals due to coronavirus

Australia will impose a 14-day self isolation on all international passenger arrivals from midnight Sunday to try and contain the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Australia will also ban cruise ships from foreign ports for an initial 30 days, he said.

Australia has recorded more than 250 coronavirus cases and three deaths.

Japan coronavirus infections rise to 1,484

The number of coronavirus infections in Japan rose to 1,484 on Sunday, increasing by a faster pace than the previous day, public broadcaster NHK reported.

The total number of infections includes 697 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and 14 returnees on charter flights from China, according to NHK data.

Deaths in the country related to the virus stand at 29, up one from the previous day. The total number of deaths include 7 from the cruise ship. 

UK advises citizens against travel to Spain amid coronavirus outbreak

British government on Sunday advised its citizens against all but essential travel to Spain amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Britons who are currently in Spain should follow the advice of local authorities, said Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, adding that transport services to the country will be operating at reduced levels.

Mexican coronavirus tally increases to 41: health ministry

Mexico has registered a rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 41 from 26 a day earlier, the Mexican health ministry said on Saturday.

South Korea reports 76 new coronavirus cases 

South Korea reported 76 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the country's total to 8,162 with 75 deaths, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

The latest numbers are in line with a downward trend in new cases, down from the 107 recorded on Saturday. 

Mainland China reports 20 new coronavirus cases

Mainland China had 20 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on March 14, the country's National Health Commission said on Sunday, up from 11 cases a day earlier.

That brings the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 80,844.

The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 3,199 as of the end of Saturday, up by 10 from the previous day. 

Trump tests negative for coronavirus

US President Donald Trump has tested negative for the new coronavirus, according to the president's personal physician.

The White House released the test results Saturday night after Trump told reporters hours earlier that he had taken the coronavirus test, following days of resisting being screened despite the fact that he had been in recent contact with three people who have tested positive for the virus.

“One week after having dinner with the Brazilian delegation in Mar-a-Lago, the President remains symptom-free,” Sean Conley, the president’s physician, said in a memo.

Trump told reporters at a White House briefing on Saturday that he had his temperature taken and it was "totally normal," shortly before stepping into the room to discuss the government's efforts to halt the spread of the virus. 

The pandemic has now infected more than 2,200 people in the US and caused at least 50 deaths.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies