Coronavirus has infected more than 230,000 people worldwide and killed around 10,000 as countries race to slow deadly virus from spreading. Here's what's happening on March 19:

A woman rests on the balcony of a building as people stay in their houses to prevent the spread of coronavirus,, in Vitoria, northern Spain on March 19, 2020
A woman rests on the balcony of a building as people stay in their houses to prevent the spread of coronavirus,, in Vitoria, northern Spain on March 19, 2020 (AP)

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Spain orders closure of all hotels

Spain has ordered all hotels in its territory to close to help stem the spread of coronavirus, under a new measure announced in the state official bulletin.

The measure orders "the suspension of opening to the public of all hotels and similar lodgings, tourist accommodation and other short-term accommodation... situated on national territory," the official notice published in BOE read.

Hotels in Spain, the number-two tourist destination in the world, will close immediately for seven days.

Long-stay accommodation can remain open, providing they have the necessary infrastructure for residents to abide by the conditions of total confinement currently in force in the country.

Death toll in Turkey rises to four, 359 confirmed cases 

The death toll in Turkey due to the coronavirus has risen to four, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said, adding there was a total of 359 confirmed cases in the country.

The number of confirmed cases was 191 on Wednesday. Koca said 1,981 tests had been conducted in the past 24 hours, 168 of which came back positive. 

US Senate Republicans present $1 trillion coronavirus relief package

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell presented on Thursday a $1 trillion relief package to combat the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

The Republican-drafted text must now be examined by Senate Democrats before a date for a vote can be set.

The measures must then be passed by the majority-Democrat House of Representatives before being signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Morocco to restrict movement

Morocco has declared a health emergency and will restrict movement across the country from 6 pm on Friday to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus, the interior ministry said.
Most people may leave their homes only to buy food or medicine, but critical staff for companies and workers in key sectors will be given papers to allow them to travel to and from work.

France death toll rises to 372

The coronavirus epidemic has killed 108 more people in France over the last 24 hours, bringing the total death toll from the outbreak in the country to 372, the top French health official said.

"The number of infections is doubling every four days," Jerome Salomon told reporters, adding that the virus was spreading in France "rapidly and intensely".

He said that 10,995 cases of coronavirus infection had now been recorded in France, while warning this did not account for all infections as non-serious cases were not tested, with these patients advised simply to stay at home.

Chad confirms its first case

The Chadian government confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus within its borders, according to media reports.

The patient is a Moroccan national who travelled to Chad from Douala, Cameroon, and is currently monitored by the medical services, the africa.cgtn website quoted Chadian government as announcing.

Before reporting the first case in the Central African country, the Chadian government had shut down the country’s international airports from Wednesday to stem the spread of the pandemic.

US urges citizens to avoid all international travel, return if possible

The US on Thursday warned against any international travel due to the coronavirus pandemic and advised citizens to come home if possible.

Upgrading its travel alert to the highest possible level, the State Department said that Americans who do not return "should be prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period."

Coronavirus cases reported in Europe pass 100,000

The number of cases of the new coronavirus reported in Europe has surpassed 100,000, according to reliable tracking website, Worldometre.

Europe has at least 100,470 recorded infections, including 4,752 deaths, overtaking Asia with 94,253 cases and 3,417 deaths. 

This number of diagnosed cases reflects only a fraction of the actual number of infections as many countries test only those with the most severe symptoms.

Italy overtakes China's coronavirus death toll

Italy on Thursday overtook China's coronavirus death toll, with 427 new fatalities taking its total since the first case was registered in February to 3,405.

China has officially reported 3,245 deaths since registering the first infection at the end of last year.

US CDC reports 11,329 coronavirus cases, 161 deaths

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday reported 11,329 cases of coronavirus and said the death toll had risen to 161.

Coronavirus cases have been reported in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The CDC figures do not necessarily reflect cases reported by individual states.

Millions could die if virus allowed to spread unchecked: UN chief

Millions of people could die from the new coronavirus, particularly in poor countries, if it is allowed to spread unchecked, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned on Thursday, appealing for a coordinated global response to contain it.

"If we let the virus spread like wildfire, especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world, it would kill millions of people," he said.

"Global solidarity is not only a moral imperative, it is in everyone's interests," he said.

Dutch, Spanish and Monaco Formula 1 GPs postponed

The Dutch, Spanish and Monaco Formula One Grand Prix races were on Thursday postponed due to the global spread of coronavirus, officials announced.

The triple postponements follow the cancellation of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix last week, and the postponement of the Chinese, Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix races.

The Dutch GP, due to return to the calendar for the first time since 1985, was set to be held at Zandvoort on May 1-3, with the Spanish race following a week later, and the Monaco Grand Prix on May 21-24.

Monaco's Prince Albert II has coronavirus

Monaco's Prince Albert II has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the principality said in a statement on Thursday, adding there were "no concerns for his health."

The titular head of the Mediterranean enclave is continuing to work from his private apartments at the royal palace, the statement said.

'No way to turn back coronavirus epidemic in UK'

Britain will not be able to turn back the epidemic caused by the new coronavirus so is working on managing the Covid-19 outbreak by bolstering capacity in the National Health Service, the government's chief medical officer said on Thursday

Chris Whitty, the government's most senior medical adviser, said scientists were now reasonably sure about the mortality rates of Covid-19, but warned that in the UK they would appear higher than expected until greater numbers of people are tested.

Britain has so far reported 104 deaths among 2,626 confirmed cases, but scientific advisers have said more than 50,000 people might have already been infected.

South African supermarkets ration food

South Africa’s biggest supermarket, Shoprite, will limit purchases of some food products and medicines, it said as frantic shoppers stripped shelves to prepare for possible isolation during the coronavirus outbreak.

South African retailers say they are working to ensure a consistent supply of products such as meat, canned food and medicine.

Trade minister Ebrahim Patel said sellers would not be allowed to raise prices by more than increases in the cost of the inputs used to make them.

"We're working with retailers to ensure that supply chain of food remains strong," he said.

'Too soon to cancel 2020 Tokyo Olympics'

World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe said moving the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to September or October due to the coronavirus outbreak was a possibility but it was too soon to take a decision on whether to cancel the Games.

While most of world sport has come to a standstill due to the pandemic, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has remained committed to staging the Tokyo Games as planned from July 24-August 9 despite growing dissent.

"Let's not make a precipitous decision when we don't have to four months out," Coe told BBC Sport.

Croatia reports first death of person infected with coronavirus

Croatia registered its first death of a person infected with the coronavirus, the state public health institute said on the official government web page for the crisis.

"A deceased (70-year-old) man was infected with the coronavirus. Further checks are under way to see whether the person had some chronic diseases or the only cause of death was the coronavirus," Irena Hrstic, head of the hospital in the northern Adriatic city of Pula, told a news conference.

Croatia has so far recorded 102 cases of the coronavirus infection. Five people have recovered. 

US pauses Afghanistan deployments, isolates arrivals there

The US military says it is pausing the movement of any new troops into Afghanistan and is quarantining 1,500 troops and civilians who recently arrived in order to protect them from the new coronavirus, the top commander in the country said on Thursday.

Troops who are already in the country may have their deployments extended so missions can continue.

The announcement comes as the US is reducing its troops' presence in Afghanistan as part of the peace deal signed last month between the Taliban and the United States.

In a tweet, Army General Scott Miller said the military has started new screening procedures for personnel arriving in the country.

Serbia closes main airport for passenger flights

Serbia has closed its main airport for all passenger flights and is considering a complete shutdown of its land borders in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The government says Nikola Tesla airport in Belgrade was closed for all but cargo flights. The other Serbian civilian airport in the central city of Nis was closed on Wednesday.

Serbia, with 97 coronavirus cases confirmed so far, has introduced some of the toughest restrictive measures in Europe. They include an overnight curfew for all citizens and a ban on leaving their homes for all those older than 65.

Swiss cases of coronavirus rise to 3,880, with 33 deaths

The number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland and Liechtenstein has risen to 3,888, Swiss health authorities said on Thursday, with 33 people reported to have died from the disease.

The total figure was up about 800 cases from Wednesday when the nation had reported 21 deaths. 

India bars international commercial passenger flights

India's government said it will ban all scheduled international commercial passenger flights from landing in the country from March 22 for one week to contain the spread of coronavirus.

India has already suspended visas for the vast majority of foreigners seeking to enter the country. 

Turkey death toll at 3

Turkey confirmed its third death from coronavirus. 

"Turkey has conducted over 10,000 tests so far ... Our target is to carry out at least 10,000 to 15,000 tests daily," Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said. 

"As of today, 18 labs are conducting tests in coordination with two university foundations," Koca said. 

Moreover, 93 new cases were confirmed, raising the tally to 191 in the country. 

Spain virus death toll hits 767, jumps 30 percent in 24 hours

Spain on Thursday announced deaths due to the novel coronavirus had risen about 30 percent over the past 24 hours to 767.

A total of 17,147 people have contracted the disease in the country, a roughly 25 percent increase over the previous day, according to the health ministry, with the figure expected to rise further in the coming days as testing for Covid-19 becomes more readily available.

Airlines need up to $200B in emergency aid – IATA

Up to $200 billion is needed to rescue the world's airlines during the coronavirus crisis, the global aviation association said on Thursday, appealing especially to African and Middle Eastern countries to provide emergency assistance.

"Support measures are urgently needed," the International Air Transport Association said in a statement, adding that "on a global basis, IATA estimates that emergency aid of up to $200 billion is required."

Iran's death toll from coronavirus climbs to 1,284

The death toll in Iran from the coronavirus outbreak has risen to 1,284, local media reported on Thursday.

Authorities said 149 people died over the last 24 hours, while 1,046 new cases have emerged, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 18,407, Iran's state TV quoted Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour as saying.

The first case of coronavirus in the country was confirmed in Qom province on February 19.

Besides China, Italy and South Korea, Iran is among the worst-affected countries since the start of the outbreak last December.

Germany cases cross 10,000

Germany has recorded 10,999 cases of the coronavirus, official data showed, with the number of newly reported infections rising by 2,801 in a single day.

At least 20 people have died from the viral infection, data from the disease control agency Robert Koch Institute showed. North Rhine-Westphalia remains the worst-hit state, with 3,033 Covid-19 cases, up 661 from a day ago.

New Zealand shuts border to all foreigners

New Zealand closed its borders to all foreigners as it stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a press conference that citizens and permanent residents can still return, but that their options are running out as many commercial airlines are cancelling flights.

"Today’s decision stops any tourist or temporary visa holders, such as students or temporary workers, from entering into New Zealand," Ardern said.

New Zealand so far has 28 cases of coronavirus infection, but no deaths. 

Russia reports first coronavirus death

Russia said a 79-year-old woman with underlying health issues who tested positive for the novel coronavirus had died from pneumonia, the country's first confirmed death resulting from the virus.

Russia has reported 147 cases of the coronavirus.

Italy to extend lockdown measures over virus – Conte

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that the week-long lockdown in Italy, the European country hit worst by the coronavirus pandemic, will be extended beyond the April 3 deadline.

"The measures we have taken... must be extended beyond their original deadline," Conte told Thursday's edition of the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Up to 20,000 UK military personnel to go on standby 

Up to 20,000 British military service personnel will be put on standby to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak, the UK defence ministry said.

The number represented a doubling of service personnel who are on standby. 

Iran's Khamenei to pardon 10,000 more prisoners

Iran’s top leader will pardon 10,000 more prisoners in an apparent effort to combat the coronavirus, state TV reported Thursday.

The report quoted judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili as saying that 10,000 prisoners – among them, an unknown number of security-related inmates – will be granted amnesty under a decree by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the occasion of the Iranian new year, called Nowruz.

In apparent efforts to try to curb the spread of the new virus that has killed more than 1,100 in Iran, the country has already released 85,000 prisoners on temporary leave.

Pakistan shuts down shrines and other sites

Pakistani authorities closed shrines of Sufi saints in the capital and elsewhere and visits to museums, archaeological and tourist sites were banned as cases of coronavirus jumped to 304, mostly in pilgrims returning from Iran.

Two people who had returned from Saudi Arabia and Dubai became Pakistan's first victims when they died in the country's northwest, spreading panic among many who were not taking infections seriously.

Authorities also plan to quarantine hundreds of pilgrims who returned from Iran. Islamabad has already shut schools and students have been forced to leave hostels.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Cricket Board said all 128 Covid-19 tests carried on players, officials, broadcasters and team owners associated with the Pakistan Super League have come back negative.

Indonesian president wants testing to be ramped up

Indonesia needs to immediately widen its testing for coronavirus to ensure detection of more infections, President Joko Widodo said.

"I ask that the number of testing kits and the number of test centres are increased and we get more hospitals involved," he said.

Meanwhile, a rally of Muslim pilgrims that drew thousands of people to Indonesia's South Sulawesi province was postponed amid fears that it could help spread the coronavirus, a local official said.

Authorities had been trying to persuade organisers to stop the event at Gowa near the city of Makassar after a similar event in Malaysia led to hundreds of infections.

The head of Gowa regency, Adnan Purichta Ichsan, posted on social media late on Wednesday that organisers had "finally agreed" to postpone the event.

The Southeast Asian nation has a total of 227 cases.

Malaysia reports 110 new coronavirus cases, total hits 900

Malaysia reported 110 new coronavirus cases, with the total number of cases increasing to 900.

Most of the new cases were linked to a religious gathering at a mosque attended by 16,000 people, the health ministry said.

South Korea pledges $39B emergency funding

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday pledged $39 billion (50 trillion won) in emergency financing for small businesses and other stimulus measures to prop up the country's coronavirus-hit economy.

The package is the latest in a string of steps Seoul has taken in recent days to curb pressure on Asia's fourth-largest economy, including an interest rate cut, an extra $9.12 billion (11.7 trillion won) budget and more dollar supplies.

The government will issue loan guarantees for struggling small businesses with less than $78,000 (100 million won) in annual revenue to ensure companies can easily and cheaply access credit, Moon said.

Australia slashes rates to record low

Australia's central bank cut interest rates to record lows and moved to pump billions into the financial system, in an emergency bid to pull the economy out of a pandemic-induced free-fall.

The Reserve Bank of Australia cut the cash rate by a quarter of a point to 0.25 percent, making it the latest lender-of-last-resort to announce emergency measures during the fast-moving crisis.

Australian authorities have ramped up their financial response amid fears the outbreak may slip the country into its first recession in nearly three decades, bringing a surge in unemployment.

No new domestic virus cases in China, but 34 imported

China on Thursday reported no new domestic cases of the coronavirus for the first time since it started recording them in January but recorded a spike in infections imported from abroad.

It also reported eight new deaths. 

There were 34 cases that were brought in from abroad, the biggest daily increase in two weeks, according to the National Health Commission.

South Korea reports 152 new cases

South Korea reported 152 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, taking the national tally to 8,565, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The country had recorded fewer than 100 new infections for four days in a row until Wednesday.

Infection tally rises, first death reported in Mexico

Mexico has confirmed its first death from the coronavirus in the country.
In a statement, the Health Ministry said the deceased was a diabetic patient, who had coronavirus symptoms for a week.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Mexico rose on Wednesday to 118 from 93 a day earlier, the Mexican Health Ministry said.

Australia's Qantas suspends all international flights

Australia's biggest airline Qantas said it will cut all international flights later this month, after the island nation's other main carrier Virgin shut its overseas services due to the virus pandemic.

Qantas said all of its international flights would be suspended by late March after the government told citizens Wednesday to forego all overseas travel in a bid to halt the spread of novel coronavirus. 

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the airline would lay off 20,000 of its 30,000 staff.

UAE suspends entry of residence visa holders

The United Arab Emirates will suspend entry of valid residence visa holders who are still abroad starting at noon on Thursday for two weeks, over coronavirus concerns, state news agency WAM said on earlyThursday.

The UAE has recorded 113 cases.

The country has banned its citizens from travelling abroad until further notice over coronavirus fears, the state news agency WAM reported on Wednesday.

Brazil city orders shutdown of commerce

Brazil's biggest city Sao Paulo on Wednesday ordered most commercial establishments closed to the public until April 5 in a dramatic effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus epidemic that is likely to batter Latin America's largest economy.

Sao Paulo city hall said in a statement the measure does not apply to pharmacies, supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants and gas stations, and would grant exceptions for e-commerce.

A press representative for the city said the order would take effect on Friday. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies