- More than 500,000 confirmed cases globally with nearly 24,000 deaths
- The US overtook China as the country with the most COVID-19 cases worldwide
- Italy reported another spike in cases, taking the total to more than 80,500
- Germany’s low death rate has been put down to rigorous testing, though strict measures have yet to curtail cases
Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)
21:53 US President Donald Trump has urged the House of Representatives to pass “without delay” the $2.2 trillion economic relief package, while thanking the Senate for unanimously passing the bill.
Trump spoke enthusiastically about today’s meeting with G20 leaders, particularly in terms of information and data sharing to help combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The president’s press briefing came as the US overtook China to become the country with the most coronavirus cases in the world. The Johns Hopkins medical institute reported that the US now has more than 82,000 cases.
Trump cast doubt on China’s official figures, and added that the high numbers in the US were “a tribute to the amount of testing” they were conducting.
Nevertheless, Trump has vowed to “vanquish” the virus he said his country was “at war with.”
21:20 The European Union has set a 14-day deadline for the bloc’s finance ministers to propose further financial aid to combat the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.
EU leaders agreed after a six-hour video-conference that the proposals “should take into account the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 shock affecting all our countries,” a joint statement said. “Our response will be stepped up, as necessary, with further action in an inclusive way, in light of developments, in order to deliver a comprehensive response.”
21:19 Costa Rican Health Minister Daniel Salas has reported that there are 30 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, bringing the total number to 231. The Central American country has so far reported two deaths from the virus.
21:04 German coach Jürgen Klopp has delivered a message of thanks to healthcare workers across the globe.
The Liverpool manager led tributes from the club, along with a number of players, from both the men’s and women’s teams.
20:46 The United Kingdom came together as one to applaud its National Health Service (NHS) for their help in treating patients during the coronavirus outbreak.
The “Clap For Carers” initiative saw residents applauding from their doorsteps, windows and balconies at 8 p.m local time, with some venturing into the streets, and motorists joining in by beeping horns from their vehicles.
20:15 Human Rights Watch has accused Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of setting a “dangerous example” by not respecting social distancing.
Lopez Obrador had initially continued his routine of public appearances and contact with supporters. This was in spite of health authorities urging 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.
19:58 Here is a round-up of what happened across Europe on Thursday:
Germany: Some 8,000 people have been sealed off in two areas in the northeastern German town of Jessen. Only essential workers, such as nurses, but also supermarket and dairy workers, are allowed to enter the two areas. The authorities have decided to place residents in quarantine after an outbreak of the coronavirus in a nursing home. Germany has noted 36,508 cases of COVID-19 infections, with 198 people dying, according to the latest data published by the country’s Robert Koch Institute. German hospitals are to take in at least 47 coronavirus patients from Italy.
UK: British authorities said restrictions on public life are showing results and that some of them might stay in place for up to six months. The latest numbers show 578 people have died of COVID-19 since the outbreak started, with the number of infected jumping by over 2,100 people in 24 hours to reach 11,658 confirmed cases on Thursday.
Separately, the government pledged to pay grants to UK’s 5 million self-employed workers if they lose their livelihoods due to the pandemic. The money would be transferred by a taxable grant worth 80% of the workers’ average monthly profits over the last three years, up to 2,500 pounds ($3,035, €2,750) a month, according to the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak.
Italy: Rome blocked a pledge by EU leaders to mitigate the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis, with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte saying that the draft document did not go far enough. The Italian leader said he gave EU leaders 10 days to find an adequate solution. Conte’s office said that Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez agreed with the deadline. Previously, Conte called for the launch of EU “recovery bonds,” a joint borrowing scheme. The country has seen 80,529 coronavirus cases, with the death toll reaching 8,165 according to the country’s Civil Protection Agency. The officials said 662 people died in the last 24 hours.
Spain: The Spanish government extended its coronavirus lockdown measures until at least April 12, as the country’s death toll surpassed 4,000. While Spain’s death toll is still about half of Italy’s, it has already surpassed the number of deaths in China, where the outbreak began in late December. A report by radio network Cadena Ser found that over 1,300 nursing home residents died of COVID-19 in Spain, with the government saying it could neither confirm nor deny the claim. An ice rink in Madrid has been converted into a morgue to store bodies in the country’s worst affected region. Real Madrid football club said their home ground, the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, would be used to store medical supplies.
France: The coronavirus death toll in France rose by 27% on Thursday compared to the day before, with 365 people dying in the previous 24 hours. The toll does not include those who died at home or in retirement facilities, said the country’s top health official Jerome Salomon. France now has more than 29,500 coronavirus cases, with 3,375 in serious condition and requiring life support. The country has 8,000 hospital beds equipped with ventilators.
19:31 Hendrik Streeck, head of the Institute of Virology at Bonn’s University Clinic, told German public TV that Germany has a low death rate from the novel coronavirus as testing on “the vulnerable population” started early.
“We still have a chance to understand the virus here in Germany, because we do so many tests.” He explained that hard-hit Italy, for example, initially only tested people when they were already in hospital with full-blown symptoms.
19:19 Volkswagen has extended its two-week-long production stop in its German plants by an extra four days due to the coronavirus outbreak, the carmaker announced.
This means the firm will apply for an extension of short-term labor for more than 80,000 staff, ending with the night shift on April 9 to April 10.
19:06 A spokesman for the board of the Association of South German Asparagus and Strawberry Growers (VSSE), has described the entry ban for harvest workers from Eastern Europe as “devastating” for the industry.
Speaking to DW about the ban caused by the pandemic, Simon Schumacher said: “We now need our Eastern European professionals who can and really want to perform in the field.”
In total, the companies would need up to 180,000 helpers, primarily from Romania.
18:54 French health authorities have declared 365 new deaths from the coronavirus, taking the total to 1,696.
It constitutes a daily rise In France of 27%, a significant increase from the previous day with the country now in its second week of lockdown.
18:39 German footballer Thomas Müller is setting an example in his home region with a special campaign due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The 30-year-old Bayern Munich forward is donating a warm meal to people who “uphold public life” through their work.
The workers in the German town of Pähl and the surrounding area can order food on Friday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. from two separate restaurants in Müller’s hometown. If you know German, you can watch his message in this tweet:
18:37 South Korea is among those countries with a high rate of testing for the novel coronavirus. Watch DW’s latest report to find out how the east Asian country has managed to flatten the curve.
18:36 The British government has said an administrative error was to blame for the UK’s failure to sign up to an emergency EU program to help procure medical equipment to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
After an outcry over Downing Street’s refusal to enrol in the scheme, a spokesperson claimed the government was confused about whether it could participate.
The UK is currently in an EU departure phase that is set to end on December 31, thus the country is still eligible to acquire the aid.
The bloc has yet to comment on whether it will now give Britain the opportunity to apply for obtaining the much-needed ventilators and protective gear.
18:35 German farmers are worried their crops will be left to rot in the fields. Who will replace eastern European seasonal staff now that travel restrictions are in place? Watch DW’s latest report here:
18:06 Italy has announced the recovery of a 101-year-old man from the new coronavirus. The man, identified only as Mr P, was hospitalized last week but has now returned home after fighting off the deadly virus.
“It is in the darkest of times that certain stories take on a broader meaning,” Rimini’s deputy Mayor Gloria Lisi said in the statement.
17:29 The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) told the G20 that the pandemic is “accelerating at an exponential rate” and called on them to rapidly increase production of protective gear for health workers.
“We call on all of your nations to increase production, remove export bans and ensure equity of distribution,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, told the group of leaders from the 20 leading economies in the world.
17:22 China and Iran have joined the chorus of disapproval of sanctions imposed on the two countries.
“We urge you to request the complete and immediate lifting of such illegal, coercive and arbitrary measures of economic pressure (…) in order to ensure the full, effective and efficient response of all members of the international community to the coronavirus,” they said in a letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The letter was published on Twitter by the Iranian mission to the UN, claiming the sanctions hinder its fight against COVID-19.
The document does not specifically mention the United States but all eight signatories currently face sanctions from Washington.
In addition to Iran and China, the signatories include Russia, Venezuela, North Korea, Nicaragua, Cuba and Syria.
17:13 Switzerland has reported more than 10,000 coronavirus cases as it launched plans to start tracking crowd build-ups through mobile phone data.
The Alpine country’s Health Ministry said 10,661 citizens have tested positive for the new coronavirus, up almost 1,000 on the previous day’s figure, while 161 people have died.
Switzerland is among the countries that have conducted most COVID-19 tests per capita.
16:56 Iran has the sixth-highest number of reported cases in the world, numbering almost 30,000. More than 2,200 deaths have been confirmed as a result of the coronavirus.
16:52 Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for sanctions relief while the pandemic endures, telling G20 leaders it was a matter “of life and death.”
Putin did not say which countries should get the relief but there have been calls for the United States to show mercy to Iran, at least until the outbreak eases.
“Ideally we should introduce a… joint moratorium on restrictions on essential goods as well as on financial transactions for their purchase,” Putin said at a virtual meeting of G20 leaders.
“I am talking about the countries that are suffering the most from this pandemic. At the end of the day, it’s a question of life and death, this is a purely humanitarian issue.”
“These matters should be freed of any politics,” Putin added.
16:34 Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has asked his compatriots not to return to the country from the United States in an attempt to stave off a rapid rise in infections.
16:01 Much of Germany’s economic life has ground to a halt due to the coronavirus outbreak. Now, many small and medium-sized companies are developing creative new ways to generate revenue. DW’s Hannah Fuchs went to find out more:
Germany’s small businesses get creative amid coronavirus crisis
15:49 The French government has asked for support from the German armed forces in its efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
According to German magazine Der Spiegel, Paris asked in recent days via military and diplomatic contacts, whether the German army could help.
The French government wants to use helicopters to urgently relocate patients from particularly affected regions to other parts of the country, in order to alleviate the burden in those areas where there are a high number of cases.
15:21 The leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies (G20) have agreed to pump more than $5 trillion (€4.5 trillion) into the global economy as part of financial measures to stave off an economic collapse amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are injecting over €5 trillion into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic,” read the statement released after the conclusion of the virtual meeting led by Saudi Arabia.
Finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 will work together with international organizations to develop and deliver “appropriate international financial assistance.”
The leaders also plan to expand manufacturing capacity to meet the increasing needs for medical supplies.
15:12 Anyone who says they have the coronavirus who coughs on purpose at emergency workers’ faces is being sent to prison for up to two years, Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions has revealed.
Max Hill said there had been reports of people coughing in the faces of police, other emergency workers and shop staff. Those responsible could face charges of common assault, Hill said.
Meanwhile, in Ireland, politicians have raised similar concerns over public disorder.
Irish Health Minister Simon Harris condemned people who deliberately coughed in the faces of others as “disgusting,” saying he himself had been a target.
15:10 “The reason why we in Germany have so few deaths compared to the number of infected people is explained by the fact we’re doing a tremendous amount of lab testing,” said Christian Drosten, the chief virologist at Berlin’s Charité hospital.
14:48 Real Madrid’s football stadium, the Santiago Bernabeu, is to be used as a makeshift storage facility as Spain struggles to contain the coronavirus outbreak. The Iberian country has reported over 50,000 cases and more than 4,000 deaths from the virus.
Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, in conjunction with UNICEF, donated 15,000 COVID-19 testing kits and 264,000 face masks, while Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has also donated €1 million ($1.08 million) to hospitals.
14:43 Nine doctors have died in the Philippines from COVID-19, the country’s top medical association has reported. Hospitals are said to be overwhelmed in the southeast Asian country, and medics have complained about a lack of protective gear.
14:39 The Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan has reported its first death from the novel coronavirus.
14:32 Bosch says it has created a coronavirus test that is able to give results in less than two and a half hours, with “an accuracy of over 95%,” the German tech firm said.
The fully automated procedure is made for use in hospitals, doctors’ offices and other health facilities, according to the tech giant.
The test, developed within six weeks, will be read to use in Germany within a month, before being made available to other countries.
14:22 Brussels has been on lockdown for over a week now, how are people coping there? Watch DW’s latest report from the Belgian capital here:
14:12 Japan seems to have weathered the coronavirus pandemic well so far, but the government has now set up a coronavirus task force after seeing a worrying increase in cases that cannot be traced. But the cherry blossom season is drawing people out to the parks, prompting Tokyo’s governor to urge residents to avoid nonessential outings. Watch DW’s latest report here:
13:56 German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has urged people to show solidarity and that everyone should “look beyond borders.” Listen to what he said here:
13:46 Swiss authorities are using cell phone data to check if the population is complying with the restrictions on large crowds. The data used is a day old and does not incorporate information from private environments such as homes, according to a Reuters report citing Daniel Koch from the Swiss Health Ministry.
14:39 London hospitals face a wave of coronavirus patients akin to a “continuous tsunami,” said a high ranking NHS official. The medical workers are dealing with an “explosion of demand” from seriously ill patients, Chris Hopson, who leads an organization representing NHS managers, told BBC radio.
The UK currently has 9,642 confirmed cases of the coronavirus infection, with 465 deaths, according to the data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University. The authorities are set to open a makeshift hospital with 4,000 beds in London to relieve the pressure in the British capital. Another 10 such hospitals could be opened across the country, according to media reports.
13:30 Germany’s football clubs Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, and Bayer Leverkusen are earmarking €20 million ($21.7 million) for other German teams who suffer financially due to the coronavirus pandemic. The four clubs will give up €12.5 million of television income and provide the remaining funds from their own budgets, said the German Football League (DFL). Read more in this tweet (in German):
13:23 Portugal is set for a coronavirus-driven recession, the country’s central bank said on Thursday. GDP is set to drop by between 2.7% and 5.7% in 2020, according to the Bank of Portugal.
12:40 Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week amid a widespread economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The figure is more than quadruple the previous record set in 1982. As job losses mount, some economists say the nation’s unemployment rate could hit 13% by May.
12:15 For over a week, Belgians have been more or less cooped up at home. Gatherings are banned, and police use speakers and drones to patrol the streets. But people in Brussels seem to be taking it fairly well, though they hope the measures don’t get any stricter. DW’s Georg Matthes took a trip round the deserted streets.
12:00 With around a third of the world’s population in lockdown, Netflix has become something of a comfort. DW looks at how the streaming service could thrive from the crisis.
11:40 The chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, said the US central bank will continue to “aggressively” pump liquidity into the US economy to weather the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. He acknowledged that the economy will see a sharp downturn, but the Fed aims to ensure a recovery by providing credit, and “we will keep doing that aggressively.”
11:05 The Spanish Health Ministry has reported that the death toll in the country now stands at 4,089 after 655 people died in the last 24 hours. Spain on Wednesday surpassed China as the country with the second-highest number of deaths behind Italy.
11:03 The coronavirus pandemic will push the euro area and the UK into recession this year, with their economies expected to contract by as much as 2%, international credit ratings agency S&P warned.
S&P is forecasting economic contraction of 2.6% in Italy, the country hardest hit by the pandemic, and 2.1% in Spain. The agency expects the German and the UK economies to contract by 1.9% and the French economy by 1.7%.
10:50 German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has appealed for countries to work together in the fight against COVID-19. The suffering wrought by the virus does not stop at borders, he said.
10:47 Germany’s relatively low rate of deaths from the coronavirus so far is largely due to the high number of tests being carried out in the country, Berlin-based virologist Christian Drosten said.
This means that authorities are aware of more cases, including milder ones, he noted. Speaking at the launch of a government-backed alliance to promote research into the virus, Drosten said Germany was carrying out “extremely high numbers” of tests, averaging around 500,000 a week.
Latest Germany figures: 39,355 infections, 222 deaths, 3,547 recovered
10:27 The German economy could shrink by as much as 10% this year due to the public health crisis unleashed by the new coronavirus, the German Economic Institute (IW) predicted on Thursday. The massive decline would occur in a worst-case scenario whereby the lockdown continues until the end of June, IW said.
“The industrial sector would be hit harder with an 18% decline. In this case, the crisis could continue until the end of the year,” IW underlined.
10:11 The eastern Chinese city of Shanghai is imposing a 14-day quarantine and observation on all incoming travelers from Thursday as part of the efforts to prevent coronavirus transmission, the local government said. Shanghai had previously required travelers to go into quarantine only if they had visited 24 badly hit countries in the two weeks before their arrival in the city.
09:57 Iran reported 157 new coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, the country’s Health Ministry said on Thursday, raising the official number of fatalities to over 2,200 in one of the world’s worst-hit countries.
Latest Iran figures: 29,406 infected, 2,234 deaths
09:38 Singapore on Thursday unveiled new measures worth billions of dollars to help businesses and households fight the coronavirus pandemic that threatens to push the city-state’s economy into a deep recession.
The new measures include wage support, loan schemes and tax breaks to the tune of S$48 billion ($33 billion, €30.26 billion). The package will see the government tap the national reserves for the first time since the 2007-08 global financial crisis.
09:20 Vietnam is banning gatherings of over 20 people at a time for the next two weeks to help stop the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said on Thursday. Phuc also called on major urban centers in Vietnam to temporarily shut down non-essential services.
09:10 Indonesia confirmed 103 new COVID-19 cases, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto said on Thursday. The number of new deaths due to the new coronavirus rose by 20, taking the total number to 78, he said.
Latest Indonesia figures: 893 infections, 78 deaths, 35 recovered
08:50 Germany’s military has enough reservists on standby to step in and help the country cope with the corona crisis, said the country’s Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. There is a great willingness among the reservists to help, she told public broadcaster ZDF.
08:40 The UK government is reportedly mulling over a plan to help around 2 million of the country’s 5 million self-employed workers through the coronavirus outbreak by paying money directly into their bank accounts. The monthly payouts are expected to be capped and means-tested to benefit those on lower incomes, the Times newspaper reported.
08:30 Greek authorities have quarantined a cluster of Muslim towns in the Xanthi province in the country’s Northeast after several coronavirus cases and a death. Nine people in the region overall have tested positive for the virus over the past six days, civil protection deputy minister Nikos Hardalias said.
08:20 Moscow will close all shops except for pharmacies and grocery stores, in a bid to stop the transmission of coronavirus in the Russian capital. The measure, which includes the closure of restaurants, cafes and bars, will last from March 28 to April 5, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said. Russia also decided to halt all international flights from midnight on Friday.
08:10 Leaders from the Group of 20 major economies will speak via video link later Thursday about how to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact on the world population.
Latest figures: 472,109 infections worldwide, 21,308 deaths, 114,870 recovered
07:50 Turkish media are reporting that German football star Max Kruse has tested positive for COVID-19. The former Werder Bremen and Borussia Mönchengladbach striker currently plays for Istanbul giants Fenerbahce.
07:45 Australia has demanded that a German cruise ship anchored off Perth leave its waters “immediately.” Seven people on board the Artania have tested positive for COVID-19.
07:30 Malaysia’s king and queen are under quarantine after seven palace staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The palace said that seven staff were hospitalized Tuesday and health authorities were trying to identify the source of the transmission.
King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah and his wife Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah were tested for the virus, but both were negative, officials said. The royal couple decided to observe a 14-day self-quarantine from Wednesday, with deep cleansing to be carried out in the palace.
Malaysia has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 infections in Southeast Asia. To curb the spread of the virus, the country has extended its lockdown by another two weeks to April 14.
Latest figures: 1,796 infections, 20 deaths, 199 recovered
06:45 Asian markets were mixed after the US Senate passed an unprecedented stimulus package worth $2.2 trillion (€2 trillion) to shield the US economy from the impact of coronavirus. Tokyo’s benchmark shed 4.5% and Shanghai and Hong Kong also declined. Australian and Southeast Asian markets gained, with Jakarta rising almost 10% and Manila over 7%.
While the US package provides much-needed support, most analysts expect the global economy to plunge into recession as countries go into lockdown, turning off economic activity.
06:30 Iran has started an intercity travel ban, 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.
Latest figures: 27,017 infections, 2,077 deaths, 9,625 recovered
06:20 European aviation giant Airbus is reducing the production of aircraft wings for three weeks as it slows operations to put in place extra health and safety measures due to the coronavirus pandemic. The move affects the firm’s wing plants in the UK and Germany.
06:00 Here is a roundup of the latest in Asia:
South Korea: South Korea has reported 104 new cases of the coronavirus and five more deaths. The country’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that 30 of the new cases were linked to recent arrivals.
Health authorities have been scrambling to prevent the virus from re-entering as an increasing number of South Koreans return from Europe and the United States amid broadening outbreaks and suspended school years.
From Friday, the country will enforce 14-day quarantines on South Korean nationals and foreigners with long-term stay visas arriving from the United States. Similar measures have already been applied to passengers arriving from Europe.
South Korea’s central bank also said it will temporarily provide an “unlimited” amount of money to eligible banks and other financial institutions for three months through repurchase agreements as it tries to calm financial markets rattled by the global health crisis.
Latest figures: 9,241 infections, 131 deaths, 4,144 recovered.
Japan: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is setting up a special task force to discuss coronavirus measures and emergency responses as the government now considers the spread of the COVID-19 virus rampant in the country.
Nationwide, Japan had 93 new cases on Wednesday, including 41 in Tokyo alone. The number has doubled from past few weeks, amid a rise of untraceable infections in Tokyo, Osaka and other cities, while a growing number of cases were brought in from abroad, the nation’s health minister said.
Latest figures: 1,313 infections, 45 deaths, 310 recovered.
China: China reported 67 new cases of coronavirus infection and six new deaths in the past day. No new cases were recorded in the original epicenter of the outbreak in Hubei province, the National Health Commission said Thursday.
Hubei on Wednesday lifted strict lockdown measures that have prevented residents from leaving the province for more than two months.
Latest figures: 81,285 infections, 3,287 deaths, 74,051 recovered.
Thailand: Thailand reported 111 new coronavirus infections, the government said on Twitter. A state of emergency took effect in the Southeast Asian nation, which has so far seen four deaths due to COVID-19 disease.
Authorities set up checkpoints on major roads linking provinces so as to increase screening in a bid to limit spread of the virus.
Latest figures: 1,045 infections, 4 deaths, 70 recovered.
05:30 A Chinese study has found that while most children tend to develop mild symptoms, a small number — including babies — can become seriously ill. Check out this father in Shanghai who is determined to keep his baby safe….
05:20 Russia is to ground all international flights starting Friday March 27, the government said on its website. Russian airlines will still be able to fetch Russian citizens stranded abroad back home.
05:00 The latest German figures from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases are out. A rise of 4,995 has taken the total number of cases to 36,508 with 198 deaths.
04:38 Here is a roundup of the latest in Latin America:
Brazil: Governors and political leaders have clashed with President Jair Bolsonaro over his strong objection to lockdown measures. The far-right leader says it is a “little flu” that caused an “overblown” reaction.
”If we cower, opt for the easy discourse, everyone stays home, it will be chaos. No one will produce anything, there will be unemployment, refrigerators will go empty, no one will be able to pay bills,” Bolsonaro warned.
But state governors, many of whom have set strict rules limiting gatherings and movement, refused to comply with the president’s instructions to lift the restrictions and limit isolation only to the elderly and those with longstanding health problems.
The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the regional laws by Bolsonaro, while the heads of both congressional houses criticized the president’s tone.
In an open letter, eight of the country’s medical professional associations called Bolsonaro an “enemy of the people’s health” whose response to the crisis was “incoherent and criminal.”
Latest figures: 2,554 infections, 59 deaths, 2 recovered.
Bolivia: President Jeanine Anez declared a state of “health emergency,” closing borders and ordering a strict lockdown until April 15 starting at midnight Wednesday. The measures are meant to bolster a nationwide lockdown that was declared three days prior but had been largely ignored. The emergency declaration will deploy more police and soldiers for enforcement. Latest figures: 38 infections, 0 deaths, 0 recovered.
Colombia: Authorities in Colombia began applying a three-week total lockdown. “Stay at home, prevent the virus from spreading and save lives,” said President Ivan Duque. The capital Bogota had already seen restrictive measures in place since last Sunday. The country’s borders have been closed and flights from abroad have been barred. Latest figures: 470 infections, 4 deaths, 8 recovered.
Chile: Santiago, home to some 1.3 million residents, will enter a lockdown on Thursday, set to last at least a week. Schools have been closed since March 16 and will remain canceled until May. Authorities have designated lockdown areas as places that “concentrate the greatest number of cases” and where “the movement of people can generate more contagions,” Health Minister Jaime Manalich said. Latest figures: 1,142 infections, 3 deaths, 22 recovered.
Honduras: A lockdown in the capital Tegucigalpa has mobilized the country’s armed forces, to help the population cope with the shutdown. Soldiers are distributing food to locked-down residents in the poorest neighborhoods of the capital Tegucigalpa. President Juan Orlando Hernandez said 800,000 poor families, a total of 3.2 million people, were in need and would receive food from the state, in order to ensure they stayed indoors. Latest figures: 52 infections, 0 deaths, 0 recovered.
Mexico: Mexico’s federal government announced the suspension of all non-essential activities beginning on Thursday. The populous State of Mexico, which borders the capital on three sides, had already imposed restrictive measures earlier in the week. But Mexicans continued to hear conflicting information from political leaders. Puebla state Governor Miguel Barbosa played down the risks of coronavirus, saying his residents were largely immune to the disease because they were poor. “The majority are wealthy people. If you are rich, you are at risk. If you are poor, no,” Barbosa said.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has drawn criticism for not taking the virus seriously enough, encouraging people to go out to restaurants, despite the more stringent measures recommended by his government. Latest figures: 475 infections, 5 deaths, 4 recovered.
03:43 Mainland China has reported a second consecutive day with no new, confirmed local coronavirus infections. It reported 67 new Covid-19 cases, but it said all had been imported. A total of six deaths were recorded the previous day. No new cases were reported in Hubei province, which was the epicentre of the outbreak in China.
On Wednesday, Hubei had lifted a more than two months-long lockdown that stopped residents from leaving the region. Public transport has now started plying. People who reside outside of Wuhan, the capital of the province, can now travel across the country if they are healthy.
Wuhan will continue to remain locked down till April 8.
03:29 The US Senate has passed a $2 trillion (€1.8 trillion) economic stimulus package to help pull the US out of a massive economic crash caused by the pandemic. The bill still needs to pass the House of Representatives, which may take 24 hours, and then be signed into law by US President Donald Trump.
The 880-page bill is the largest economic relief bill in US history. It includes cash payments to taxpayers and hundreds of billions of dollars in grants and loans to small businesses and core industries. It also has a major boost on hospital spending and expands unemployment benefits.
01:28 New York, the epicenter of the US coronavirus outbreak, is bracing for a further surge in coronavirus cases and deaths, as the state’s health infrastructure barely held on.
The US currently has 60,000 infections and 900 people have died of the virus. Some 30,000 of those cases were in New York State, with 20,000 cases in New York City (NYC) alone. Nearly all of state’s death toll, 280 of 300, were in New York City, a highly dense area of 8.6 million people.
Federal authorities said they expected all of NYC’s more than 1,800 intensive care beds to be full by Friday, according to The New York Times. The paper quoted city officials who said that at least two city hospitals have already filled up their morgues, while the rest would likely reach capacity by the end of the week.
To cope, the construction of several temporary hospitals is planned in the NYC area and a US Navy hospital ship is being deployed. One hospital in Manhattan has already set up a makeshift morgue.
Governor Andrew Cuomo told residents that, despite the crisis, social distancing measures ”may be working.” He pointed to hospitalization rate data, which previously was doubling every two days and now appeared to be doubling every 4.7 days.
Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio are anxiously awaiting federal government help, but criticized the US congress relief bill, saying it did not provide enough funds for the state and city to manage the crisis.
00:46 US President Donald Trump said his team was doing a good job handling the coronavirus epidemic and insisted that some parts of the US could ‘reopen’ sooner than others.
In a heated exchange with a reporter, who asked if his decision to end lockdowns across the US was politically motivated, he said the mainstream media was actively urging lockdowns to continue so that he would not be reelected. He made the claim earlier on Twitter.
”I think there are certain people that would like it not to open so quickly, I think there are certain people that would like it to do financially poorly, because they think that would be very good as far as defeating me at the polls,” Trump said.
Trump added that without White House leadership on the issue ”you wouldn’t even have a country left.”
Vice-President Mike Pence urged Americans to follow state and local lockdown directives, as an increasing number of communities impose lockdown measures to slow the virus. Leading expert, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, warned Americans that the virus could keep returning as a ”seasonal, cyclic thing,” between October and December.
Meanwhile, the US Congress got closer to approving a $2 trillion (€1.8 trillion) relief bill for workers and businesses, with a vote expected on the bill late on Wednesday night.
00:15 Here is a roundup of the latest in Europe:
Estonia: The country’s first fatality was confirmed on Wednesday, when an 83-year-died in the capital Tallinn. Latest figures: 404 infections, 1 death, 8 recovered.
Denmark: The European Commission has approved Denmark’s €1.3 billion ($1.41 billion) scheme to alleviate economic turmoil confronting self-employed workers in the country. Approved under EU state aid rules, it will compensate up to 75% of the losses in turnover of self-employed workers for three months, with up to €3,000 per month per person. Latest figures: 1,862 infections, 34 deaths, 41 recovered.
Finland: The prime minister has announced new restrictions banning travel between the Uusimaa region, which includes the capital Helsinki, and the rest of the country. The measures will go into effect on Friday and last three weeks, though exceptions will be made for essential travel. An estimated two-thirds of Finland’s coronavirus cases are in Uusimaa. Latest figures: 880 infections, 3 deaths, 10 recovered.
France: Paris’ Orly airport will close on March 31 until further notice, while the metro and rail services in the French capital and surrounding suburbs will be reduced to minimum capacity as the nationwide lockdown continues. President Emmanuel Macron announced that troops will be deployed to overseas territories to tackle COVID-19. All French forces in Iraq will also be withdrawn and sent to combat coronavirus at home. Latest figures: 25,600 infections, 1,333 deaths, 3,907 recovered
Italy: The infection rate has slowed for the fourth day in a row, as the country’s tough lockdown measures remain in effect. Italy has more deaths than any other country. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte pledged at least €25 billion ($27.17 billion) toward a second stimulus package. Latest figures: 74,386 infections, 7,503 deaths, 9,362 recovered
Russia: The first fatalities due to coronavirus have been confirmed by authorities, which said the deaths were two elderly people who had underlying health conditions. Vladimir Putin has postponed the 22 April nationwide referendum on a constitutional reform that would pave the way for the Russian leader to stay in power until 2036. Latest figures: 658 infections, 3 deaths, 29 recovered
Slovakia: Parliament has passed a controversial law that allows the state to access the mobile phone location data of residents who are infected with COVID-19, and track their movements while under quarantine. Slovakia’s government said the data will only be available to the state health authority and that the measures will last until December 31. Latest figures: 216 infections, 0 deaths, 7 recovered.
Spain: The death toll in the country has surpassed China, according to figures released by authorities. Spain is second only to Italy as the country with the most fatalities attributed to the novel coronavirus. Latest figures: 49,515 infections, 3,647 deaths, 5,367 recovered
UK: Heir to the British throne Charles, Prince of Wales, has tested positive for COVID-19. The palace said he was showing “mild symptoms.” Latest figures: 9,640 infections, 466 deaths, 140 recovered