UK schools to close, Italy's COVID-19 deaths jump: Live updates

Italy death toll increases by 475, as world turns to border closures and movement controls to stop coronavirus’ spread.

Italy, the country most affected by the coronavirus outside China, reported a further 475 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, as the world stepped up efforts against the pandemic by closing schools, shutting down cities and imposing strict border controls.

The United Kingdom was the latest to announce it would close schools, amid growing public pressure on the government to act.

The United States and Canada, meanwhile, have closed their border to all but essential traffic. 

More than 200,000 people have now been confirmed with the coronavirus globally and while at least 83,000 people have recovered from COVID-19, more than 8,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University in the US.


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In China, where the outbreak first began, the hardest hit province of Wuhan, and the surrounding privicne of Hubei reported no new cases on Wednesday. Both have been sealed off for nearly two months.

I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the unfolding coronavirus pandemic. 

Here are all the latest updates:

Thursday 19 March

02:10 GMT – New Zealand tells citizens ‘Do not travel’ 

New Zealanders have been told not to travel given the heightened risk of contracting the coronavirus overseas.

“We are raising our travel alert to the highest level: do not travel,” Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in a statement. “This is the first time, the New Zealand government has advised New Zealanders against travelling anywhere overseas. That reflects the seriousness of the situation we are facing with COVID-19.”

He also urged New Zealanders already overseas to return home.

02:05 GMT – South Korea reports jump in cases after four days of slowing infections

Latest data from South Korea show a jump in new coronavirus cases with a new outbreak emerging n a nursing home in the hardest-hit city of Daegu.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 152 new cases, taking the national tally to 8,565.

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

Among the new cases, 97 are from Daegu, where the KCDC said at least 74 patients at a nursing home tested positive for the virus this week.

The KCDC did not specify now many of the new cases were linked to the nursing home directly.

The fresh outbreak has prompted Daegu officials to launch extensive checks on all other nursing homes.

01:45 GMT – China reports only imported cases, mostly in Beijing

China’s new cases of coronavirus underscore how the nature of the outbreak has shifted.

The National Health Commission says while there were no domestic cases reported on Wednesday, there were 34 confirmed cases among people returning from overseas. That compares with 13 the day before. 

Of the 34 imported infections, 21 were in Beijing.

That brings the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 80,928.

The death toll rose by eight to 3,245 as of the end of Wednesday.

01:30 GMT – Wuhan and Hubei report no new cases of coronavirus for first time

China’s central city of Wuhan and its surrounding province of Hubei have reported no new cases of coronavirus for the first time.

COVID-19 is thought to have originated in a now-closed seafood market that also sold wildlife late last year.

NO new infections of the novel #coronavirus were reported on Wednesday in #Wuhan, marking a notable first in the city’s months-long battle with the virus.

00:30 GMT – US and Canada close border to all but essential traffic

The US and Canada have closed their border to non-essential traffic.

00:20 GMT – Trump signs coronavirus response bill

The White House says US President Donald Trump has signed the coronavirus response bill that will allow for free testing and paid sick leave for those working in companies with below 500 employees.

That excludes giant firms like Amazon, McDonald’s and Walmart. 

00:05 GMT – Hong Kong introduces compulsory quarantine for all overseas arrivals

Hong Kong has tightened rules for people arriving from overseas.

The territory’s reported a rising number of imported cases and all arrivals will now be required to spend 14 days in quarantine on their arrival in Hong Kong.

The authorities are also urging the city’s residents not to travel.

00:00 GMT – UK to close schools from Friday

The United Kingdom is to close all schools from Friday and cancel national exams, as it ramps up efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told parliament that that the situation had become increasingly challenging.

“The spike of the virus is increasing at a faster pace than anticipated,” he said.

In London, which has reported nearly 1,000 cases of the coronavirus, the underground’s night network – a more limited service – will also be closed down. 

For all the updates from yesterday (March 18), please click here.

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