Italy coronavirus death toll surges past 1,000: Live updates

More than 4,600 people have died and more than 126,000 infected globally from COVID-19.

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has jumped in the last 24 hours by 189 to 1,016, a rise of 23 percent, the country’s Civil Protection Agency said on Thursday.

The total number of cases in Italy, the European country hardest hit by the virus, rose to 15,113 from a previous 12,462, an increase of 21.7 percent. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic as Italy tightened its strict quarantine and the United States imposed a ban on flights to Europe.

More than 4,600 people have died and over 126,000 have been infected globally, according to the WHO. About 68,000 victims have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the virus.


  • Timeline: How the new coronavirus spread

  • Coronavirus: Which countries have confirmed cases?

  • What happens if you catch the new coronavirus?

Here are the latest updates:

For Friday, March 13 updates click here.

Thursday, March 12

22:00 GMT – Portugal orders schools, nightclubs shut due to coronavirus

On Thursday, Portugal’s government ordered the shutdown all schools nationwide starting on Monday to contain the coronavirus epidemic until further evaluation on April 9, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a televised address.

He also said cruise-ship passengers would not be allowed to disembark except those residing in Portugal. Nightclubs in the country will be shut, and there will be capacity restrictions on entry to shopping malls and restaurants.

21:55 GMT – Belgian government says schools, restaurants, clubs to close due to coronavirus

Belgium’s government ordered schools, cafes, restaurants and some shops to close due to the coronavirus, following decisions by France and other European countries to limit all but essential activities.

The measures take effect from Friday at midnight central European time and run until April 3, although schools are set to be shut for five weeks, including during the Easter holidays, Belgium’s caretaker Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes told a news conference.

“There is no lockdown,” Wilmes told reporters, stressing that supermarkets and pharmacies would remain open and other shops would only be required to close on weekends. “We want to avoid the Italian situation and avoid lockdowns.”

21:45 GMT – Bulgaria to declare state of emergency over coronavirus

Bulgaria plans to declare a state of emergency to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said late on Thursday as the country’s confirmed cases rose sharply to 23.

The Balkan country confirmed its first death of a patient diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday, and on Thursday, the number of confirmed cases jumped to 23 from seven.

“The government will ask the Parliament to declare a state of emergency, which will allow the closing of schools, kindergartens and universities,” Borissov said after an extraordinary government meeting.

21:15 GMT – Costa Rica orders universities closed on coronavirus concerns

Costa Rica has ordered all university classes suspended due the risk of the spread of coronavirus, while other schools deemed to be at risk will also be closed for two weeks, officials said on Thursday.

21:00 GMT – Disney to shut California park starting Saturday over coronavirus

Walt Disney Co will close its Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks in Anaheim, California in the US starting on Saturday amid the global outbreak of coronavirus, a company spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday.

No cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, have been reported at the parks, the statement said.

19:45 GMT – NCAA cancels ‘March Madness’ tournaments over coronavirus

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States has cancelled its “March Madness” Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic that has hit sporting events across the world.

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events,” the NCAA said in a written statement.

19:21 GMT – Qatar announces closure of cinemas, children’s play areas

The Qatar government announced a series of regulatory measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including closure of theatres and gyms, the Government Communications Office announced in a statement.

“The Ministry of Public Health calls upon all citizens and residents to avoid crowded places and postpone holding social gatherings for the time being, for their own wellbeing and that of the community,” the statement said.

09:45 GMT – Lewis Hamilton questions Formula One start

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has questioned the sport of racing for continuing as normal with the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday despite the global impact of the coronavirus.

“I am very, very surprised we are here,” the Mercedes driver told a news conference. “It’s great we have races, but it’s shocking we are sitting in this room.”

Hamilton pointed to the most recent developments in sport and the greater world such as basketball’s NBA halting its season and the United States shutting its border to travellers from Europe.

“It is very difficult having a fair judgement, but I do realise a lot of sporting competitions get cancelled and it is fair to ask the question why you are here,” Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel said.

09:30 GMT – Spanish government considering locking down Madrid

The president of the Madrid region, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, said that the Spanish government was considering locking down Madrid as a measure to stem the coronavirus spread in the country.

The Spanish government denied on Wednesday that it had any plan for such a lockdown.

“From what we have seen in the past hours, the possibility of closing down Madrid is under consideration,” Diaz Ayuso said on the Tele 5 local TV channel.

09:27 GMT – China coronavirus adviser expects global pandemic to be over by June

The global coronavirus pandemic is likely to be over by June, Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government’s senior medical adviser, said.

A lot of imported cases into China are asymptomatic patients and the reinfection rates among recovered patients is low, Zhong, an 83-year-old epidemiologist renowned for helping combat the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, told a news conference.

09:05 GMT – Iran asks IMF for $5bn emergency funding

Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for emergency funding to help it fight the coronavirus outbreak, which has hit the Islamic Republic hard, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet.

The IMF managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, “has stated that countries affected by COVID19 will be supported via Rapid Financial Instrument. Our Central Bank requested access to this facility immediately”, Zarif said.

Iran’s Central Bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati wrote on his Instagram page that “in a letter addressed to the head of IMF, I have requested $5bn from the RFI emergency fund to help our fight against the coronavirus”.

08:32 GMT – California bans mass gatherings to slow spread of coronavirus

The US state of California is banning mass gatherings of 250 people or more until the end of March in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the office of Governor Gavin Newsom said.

Health experts in the state advised that smaller events could be held if organisers implemented social distancing of six feet [two metres] per person, the governor’s office said in a statement.

08:26 GMT – South Africa reports first case of local transmission

South Africa’s health ministry reported the first case of local coronavirus transmission, saying a 32-year-old man had contracted it after coming into contact with a Chinese businessman.

“All others (cases) have been by patients who had travelled abroad,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the number of confirmed cases had risen to 17 from 13 on Wednesday.

08:14 GMT – Three infected Britons on cruise on Cambodia’s Mekong

Cambodia has found three British nationals infected with the coronavirus on a tourist boat on the Mekong River, bringing its tally of cases to five, the health ministry said.

A 73-year old British tourist, his 69-year old wife and a 65-year-old woman were on Viking Cruise Journey, docked in Kampong Cham province, north of the capital, Phnom Penh, the ministry said.

It also said 61 people from the vessel had tested negative and had been put in isolation on land and were being monitored.

08:02 GMT – Czech Republic introduces controls on German, Austrian borders

The Czech Republic is introducing controls on its borders with Germany and Austria and banning crossings away from official frontier border posts to help fight the spread of the coronavirus, Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said.

The country, which is part of the European Union’s Schengen area, will start the checks on Friday, news agency CTK reported.

07:20 GMT – China says it has passed peak of coronavirus epidemic

China’s National Health Commission said the country has passed the peak of the coronavirus epidemic.

06:55 GMT – Tokyo chief: Cancelling Olympics ‘impossible’

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said cancelling the summer Olympic Games was “impossible”, saying Japan was “not thinking of changing directions nor changing plans at all”.

Koike said Tokyo was coordinating and closely discussing with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and organisers “toward holding the games”.

The president of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee said he had received an apology from an executive board member who said the Games should be delayed a year to two because of the coronavirus.

06:15 GMT

I’ll be handling over this blog to my colleague Tamila Varshalomidze in Doha shortly.

Here’s a quick summary of this morning’s developments:

US President Donald Trump spoke to Americans earlier from the White House, announcing a European travel ban and a series of measures to tackle the virus.Democrats in Congress have also drawn up a bill that they aim to pass later on Thursday to provide sick pay, financial support and other benefits to those affected by the virus.

The NBA has suspended the basketball season, while Oscar-winning Hollywood actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, have both been hospitalised in Australia with the virus.

In the Philippines, there is growing anxiety within political circles with President Rodrigo Duterte being tested and the parliament sealed off for disinfection after a top transport official was diagnosed with COVID-19. The Asian Development Bank, which has its headquarters in Manila, has also been closed for deep cleaning.

Meanwhile, in China, the number of new cases fell to the lowest since the outbreak began.   

06:10 GMT – Johns Hopkins changes Taiwan designation after outcry

Johns Hopkins University, has changed the way it refers to Taiwan on a map detailing the spread of the new coronavirus, after the institution began referring to the self-ruled island as part of China prompting objections from the government of the self-ruled island.

Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own, has been exerting pressure on foreign companies and organisations to identify the territory as part of China, and often to name it as a Chinese province.

Taiwan has objected saying it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name, that has never been part of the People’s Republic of China.

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists Taiwan’s coronavirus case numbers under China’s, referring to the island as “Taipei and environs”.

That same designation appeared on the Johns Hopkins interactive map earlier this week, but has now reverted to calling the island “Taiwan”.

05:50 GMT – Kazakhstan suspends all public events

Kazakhstan is suspending all public events and taking special preventive measures because of the coronavirus, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

Separately, the Interfax news agency quoted deputy prime minister Alikhan Smailov as saying that the  World Trade Organisation ministerial conference that was supposed to take place in Kazakhstan in June had been cancelled because of the outbreak.

05:40 GMT – Singapore, Malaysia tracking people who attended religious gathering

Health officials in Malaysia and Singapore are trying to trace thousands of people who attended a mass religious gathering in Malaysia after a number of participants were confirmed with COVID-19.

Malaysia’s Director General of Health Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah says about 10,000 people were thought to have taken part in the event at a mosque on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, including a man from Brunei who was later confirmed to have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The ministry is tracking down the Malaysians who were present and urging them to contact the authorities. Singapore, meanwhile, is looking for 95 people from the city-state who were at the event, the local Straits Times reported.

With the WHO designation of a pandemic, Malaysia is also advising that all mass gatherings and events be postponed.

All mass gatherings should be postponed to minimise the spread of #COVIDー19 .

Those experiencing respiratory infection symptoms were advised not to attend programmes that involved crowded places including religious activities.

Read for more.

04:40 GMT – Saudi Arabia suspends travel, flights to EU, several other countries

Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended travel of citizens and residents and halted flights with several states, state news agency SPA said on Thursday citing an official source at the Interior Ministry.

The ban includes the European Union, Switzerland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti, and Somalia, the source added, saying the Kingdom had also suspended entry to those coming from these countries.

The decision excludes health workers from the Philippines and India, and evacuation, shipping and trade trips taking necessary precautions. 

04:35 GMT – Thailand reports 11 new cases, bringing total to 70

Thailand reported 11 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases in the Southeast Asian nation to 70, health officials said.

All the new patients had socialised and shared drinks, health officials said, adding that a tourist from Hong Kong had been the source of the infection.

“The Hong Kong tourist came alone and already went back. The 11 infected are all Thai,” said Sopon Iamsirithawon, director-general of the Communicable Diseases Department.

04:30 GMT – Greece reports first death from COVID-19

Greece has reported its first fatality from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The health ministry says the man who died was 67 and had recently returned from a religious pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt. He also had underlying health issues.

04:15 GMT – US House leaders unveil coronavirus bill

Democrats in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday unveiled a broad package of proposals to help Americans affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The legislation, which Democratic leaders aim to push through on Thursday, would grant workers 14 days paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave, a summary of the bill shows.

Other provisions in the 124-page “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” introduced late on Wednesday include unemployment insurance, hundreds of millions of dollars for nutrition programmes and assistance for pregnant women. 

It will also guarantee free coronavirus testing for anyone who requires it, including those who don’t have health insurance.

04:00 GMT – Japan must plan for Olympic cancellation risk

Japan must plan for any postponement or cancellation of the Tokyo Olympic Games, even if it seems unlikely, Shigeru Ishiba, a ruling party heavyweight seen as a leading candidate to be the next prime minister told Reuters.

Ishiba, an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said on Wednesday the fate of the summer games was a decision best left to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). He declined to comment on what the best move might be.

“Not thinking about worst-case scenarios won’t eliminate the risk of them materialising,” Ishiba said.

“The government must start thinking now about what to do” in case the Olympics Games is cancelled or postponed, he added.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Thursday there has been no change to plans for the games, which are supposed to start on July 24.

03:10 GMT – State department urges US citizens to reconsider all overseas travel

The State Department is urging all US citizens to reconsider travel overseas amid the deepening coronavirus outbreak.

02:50 GMT – New York postpones annual St Patrick’s Day parade

New York’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade has been postponed because of the coronavirus, governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Hundreds of thousands usually line the streets of Manhattan for the parade, which was due to take place on March 17 this year.

NEWS: The organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC have agreed to postpone the parade given the evolving #Coronavirus situation.

I thank the parade’s leadership for working cooperatively w/ us.

We believe postponing the parade is in the best interest of public health.

02:40 GMT – Hanks and wife, Rita Wilson, in isolation in Gold Coast hospital

Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson are in isolation in a hospital on Australia’s Gold Coast after being confirmed to have the coronavirus, Queensland state health officials said.

Hanks and Wilson, who are both 63, are in Australia to shoot an Elvis Presley biopic. Work on the film has now been suspended.

Read more here.

02:30 GMT – South Korea expresses concern over cases at Seoul call centre

Authorities in South Korea warned a new cluster of cases in a Seoul call centre could see the coronavirus spread in the capital.

Around 100 people linked to a call centre in the city have tested positive for the virus in recent days.

“This could lead to a ‘super spread’ in the metropolitan area, where half of the entire population are concentrated,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a meeting on Thursday.

So far, about 90 percent of the country’s cases have been in the southern city of Daegu and the neighbouring province of North Gyeongsang.

02:05 GMT – NBA suspends US basketball season after positive test

The National Basketball Association said on Wednesday that it was suspending the season until further notice after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus.

The test result was reported shortly before the start of the Utah Jazz game with Oklahoma City Thunder.

The league said the affected player was not in the arena.

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said.

“The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Read more here.

01:55 GMT – Asian Development Bank, Philippine Senate closed

The Philippines Senate has been sealed off and the Manila headquarters of the Asian Development Bank closed after visitors to both buildings were confirmed to have the coronavirus.

The parliament building is being disinfected and President Rodrigo Duterte will be tested for the virus as a precaution, his office said.

ADB staff have been told to work from home, while the building is deep-cleaned and disinfected.

“The safety of staff, visitors to the Bank, and their families is of utmost importance to us. We are providing support to staff who interacted with the visitor,” ADB Vice President for Administration and Corporate Management Deborah Stokes said in a statement posted on the ADB’s website.

01:40 GMT – Guyana, French Polynesia record coronavirus cases

Guyana, and French Polynesia have announced their first cases of coronavirus.

The person with the virus in Guyana was diagnosed after a trip to the US last week, while the case in French Polynesia involves Maina Sage, one of the islands’ representatives in the National Assembly. She returned from Paris at the weekend.

01:25 GMT – Actor Tom Hanks says he has been diagnosed with coronavirus

The Hollywood actor Tom Hanks says he and his wife have been diagnosed with the coronavirus after feeling a bit tired and having a slight fever while visiting Australia.

“To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the Coronavirus,” he wrote in a statement posted on social media.

01:20 GMT – South Korea reports 114 new cases

South Korea has given the first of its two daily updates of the coronavirus. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there were 114 new cases, as well as six more deaths.

With the new cases, South Korea has 7,869 people with the virus, and a total death toll of 66.

01:15 GMT – China announces 15 new cases of coronavirus, 11 deaths

China, the country where it all began, has given its daily update on the situation there.

The National Health Commission says it had 15 new cases – the lowest since the outbreak began at the end of December – and 11 deaths.

The hardest-hit province of Hubei and its capital Wuhan continue to account for the bulk of the country’s 80,793 cases and 3,169 deaths.

01:10 GMT – US to suspend all travel from Europe, except for UK

US President Donald Trump is speaking on the coronavirus from the White House. 

He’s suspending all travel from Europe to the United States, with the exception of the United Kingdom, from midnight on Friday.

The ban will remain in force for a month.

He also announced a range of other measures, seeking to rebuff those who’ve criticised his response to the outbreak, which he attributed to a “foreign” virus.

“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” he said. Our team at Impact has been writing about the measures. You can read more here.

00:15 GMT – Australia announces $11.4bn stimulus plan

Australia announced a 17.6 billion Australian dollars ($11.41bn) economic stimulus plan on Thursday that includes wage subsidies and cash payments for small businesses to counter the effect of the coronavirus.

“Both this financial year and in the next two financial years, the gross impact of that stimulus is A$22.9 billion ($14.82 billion). That’s 1.2 percent of GDP (gross domestic product),” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.

I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

You can read all the updates from yesterday (March 11) here.

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