That’s it from me for now. My colleague Helen Sullivan will be taking over our live coverage now on a new blog, which you will find here.
- Donald Trump given coronavirus all clear. Donald Trump’s physician, Sean Conley, has confirmed the US president does not have Covid-19. Earlier on Saturday, vice-president Mike Pence announced that the country’s European travel ban would be extended to the UK and Ireland from midnight on Monday (eastern standard time).
- NHS and private hospitals join forces to fight coronavirus. The NHS is to form an unprecedented partnership with the private health sector this week in an emergency plan to combat the Covid-19 crisis, amid fears the UK’s publicly-funded hospitals will be unable to cope with the number of coronavirus patients.
- A group of more than 240 UK scientists have denounced the government’s plan to achieve “herd immunity” by delaying measures to prevent the virus spreading. The group said that enforcing social distancing now could save “thousands of lives”.
- The Spanish government has formally declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus, placing the country in lockdown and ordering people to stay at home for the next two weeks unless they have to buy food or medicine or go to work or hospital. The measures are set to come into effect on Monday morning and follows in the example set by France hours earlier, which announced the closure all public places “non-essential” from midnight on Saturday.
- Spanish PM’s wife tests positive for coronavirus. The Spanish government announced that the prime minister’s wife, Begoña Gómez, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Both Gomez and her husband, Pedro Sánchez, are doing well and remain at their official residence in Madrid, the Moncloa palace, the government said in a statement.
- Israel proposes uses anti-terrorism tracking tech. Israel has – like France and Spain – announced a partial closure of the country, shutting down hotels, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and malls. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added that he hopes to deploy anti-terrorism tracking technology to locate people who have been in contact with those carrying the virus. He said he had requested Justice Ministry approval because such measures could infringe patients’ privacy.“The enemy is invisible, but we must locate it,” Netanyahu said.
- Colombia closes border with Venezuela and Ecuador bans foreigners. Colombia overnight closed its border with Venezuela in order to stem the spread of Covid-19 in the South American nation. The move to shut the border came overnight, after Venezuela confirmed its first two cases of Covid-19 on Friday morning. Colombia currently has 22 confirmed cases of Covid-19, but its government appears to view Venezuela - with fewer cases - as a possible centre of an outbreak in Latin America. Meanwhile, Ecuador announced it would ban foreigners from entering the country by land, sea or air. Citizens and residents will be able to enter until Monday, after which they will also face restrictions. Gatherings larger than 30 people have also been banned.
- Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord has declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus and will close all air and sea ports from Monday, prime minister Fayez al-Serraj said on Saturday. Libya, split for years between rival governments that have been fighting a war for nearly a year, lacks adequate isolation and other facilities to combat the virus, the head of its disease control centre told Reuters on Thursday.
- Rwanda, Seychelles and Central African Republic confirmed their first coronavirus cases on Saturday – bringing the total number of African countries that have reported positive tests for the virus to 23. Sudan has ordered the closure of schools and universities for one month from Saturday to stop the spread of coronavirus, a statement from the prime minister’s office said. While Morocco has banned flight to and from as many as 25 countries.
- Global number of confirmed cases stands at 156,098, with 5,819 deaths. As of today 72,621 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University. The institution runs a live tracker of coronavirus cases, based on official figures, meaning that the true figures may be somewhat higher.
That is from me in London this evening. One of my colleagues will soon get going on a new liveblog to bring you all the latest developments in the coronavirus outbreak.
Donald Trump tests negative for coronavirus
A White House physician has issued a statement confirming that Donald Trump does not have Covid-19.
It comes after the US president confirmed he had been tested for the virus at a press briefing earlier on Saturday.
Spanish PM’s wife tests positive for coronavirus
The Spanish government has just announced that the prime minister’s wife, Begoña Gómez, has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Both Gomez and her husband, Pedro Sánchez, are doing well and remain at their official residence in Madrid, the Moncloa palace, the government said in a statement.
Earlier this week, two of Sánchez’s ministers also tested positive for the virus.
Here is more heartening footage of a neighbourhood in Madrid spontaneously breaking into a round of applause in support of Spain’s healthcare workers.
It comes shortly after the Spanish government announced a nationwide lockdown would come into effect on Monday morning.
The video is filmed by student Sam Llewellyn Smith, who is set to fly back to the UK tomorrow before the lockdown comes into effect.
For more on the latest in Spain, read this report:
Scientists warn against UK government’s ‘herd immunity’ strategy
More than 245 scientists and mathematicians have denounced the government’s plan to achieve “herd immunity” by delaying measures to prevent the virus spreading, saying acting now would save “thousands of lives”.
It comes as the NHS announced an unprecedented partnership with the private health sector in an emergency plan to combat the coronavirus crisis, as fears grow that publicly funded hospitals will soon be unable to cope with the number of patients suffering from the virus.
My colleagues Denis Campbell, Toby Helm, Robin McKie and James Tapper have the full report:
More details on the scientists’ letter to the government, urging it to immediately enforce social distancing, can be found here:
Details continue to emerge of Israel’s plans to use anti-terrorism tracking technology to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission.
Cyber tech monitoring would be deployed to locate people who have been in contact with those carrying the virus, subject to cabinet approval, Netanyahu told a news conference in Jerusalem.
“We will very soon begin using technology ... digital means that we have been using in order to fight terrorism,” Netanyahu said.
He said he had requested Justice Ministry approval because such measures could infringe patients’ privacy.
The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, confirmed that it was examining the use of its technological capabilities to fight coronavirus, at the request of Netanyahu and the Health Ministry.
Avner Pinchuk, a privacy expert with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said such capabilities could include real-time tracking of infected persons’ mobile phones to spot quarantine breaches and backtracking through meta-data to figure out where they had been and who they had contacted.
“I am troubled by this announcement. I understand that we are in unique circumstances, but this seems potentially like over-reach. Much will depend on how intrusive the new measures are,” Pinchuk told Reuters news agency.
The governor of Louisiana has confirmed the states’ first coronavirus-related death – a 58-year-old with underlying health conditions.
Twitter has created a new emoji to encourage handwashing during the coronavirus outbreak.
Here is what they look like:
Among the manufacturing firms taking part in Johnson’s call will be Unipart Group, which makes precision parts and also manages large parts of the NHS warehousing and logistics chain.
Unipart chairman John Neill said: “This is a critical initiative – there are a lot of talented people already working at a great speed on this, it has my and others’ full-hearted support.”
Boris Johnson is calling on British manufacturers to boost production of ventilators and other medical equipment to prepare for a significant increase in the number of coronavirus cases.
The prime minister has also warned private hospitals to prepare for an overspill of patients from the public health service.
In a conference call on Monday, Boris Johnson will urge manufacturers to join a “national effort” to tackle the virus.
Engineers have already been asked to draw up plans to quickly produce more ventilators in the UK amid concerns that critical care facilities will come under intense pressure as the Covid-19 crisis intensifies.
In Monday’s call, the prime minister will confirm that the government will buy up stocks of new ventilators that can be produced.
Sportswriter Jonathan Liew, in London, reflects on the dearth of sporting events amid the coronavirus pandemic. He writes:
Things move pretty fast in the corona-verse: in the space of a fortnight we’ve gone from ironic elbow-bumps in the pub to the postponement of virtually the entire sporting schedule, Euro 2020 potentially becoming Euro 2021, Mikel Arteta in quarantine.
Every day, every hour seems to bring more jolts to a system that on some level we all took for granted.
Read the full story:
Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord has declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus and will close all air and sea ports from Monday, prime minister Fayez al-Serraj said on Saturday.
Serraj also said, in a broadcast address, that his internationally recognised government had earmarked 500 million Libyan dinars ($360.54 million) to combat the disease if it reached Libya, though no cases had been confirmed so far.
Libya, split for years between rival governments that have been fighting a war for nearly a year, lacks adequate isolation and other facilities to combat the virus, the head of its disease control centre told Reuters on Thursday.
Ecuador has announced sweeping restrictions, hours after the second person to die from Covid-19 in the Andean country was reported.
Starting tonight, foreigners will be banned from entering Ecuador, whether that is by land, sea or air. Citizens and residents will be able to enter until Monday, after which they will also face restrictions. Gatherings larger than 30 people have also been banned.
The bodies of those that die from the disease will be cremated.
Ecuador’s vice president Otto Sonnenholzner announced the measures – the strictest in South America – on Saturday.
“This a problem for all of Ecuador, which could affect all of us,” Sonnenholzner said at an emergency operations committee meeting in Quito on Saturday afternoon.
The country has confirmed 28 cases and two deaths.
From Madrid correspondent Sam Jones:
Just had a wonderful moment at 10pm local time as neighbourhoods across Spain applauded and cheered all the people who work in the country’s healthcare system.
A bright moment amid the lockdown.
Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney has issued a travel advisory warning against all but essential travel to Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Malta, Poland, and Slovakia.
He has also issued a telephone number for all Irish citizens impacted by flight cancellations.
The Swedish government is advising its citizens against all non-necessary trips abroad, it said in a statement on Saturday.
“Due to the widespread spread of the new coronavirus and the rapidly changing and uncertain situation that exists for travellers, the ministry of foreign affairs advises against unnecessary travel to all countries,” the government said.
Madrid correspondent Sam Jones has the latest from Spain:
The Spanish government has formally declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus, placing the country in lockdown and ordering people to stay at home for the next two weeks unless they have to buy food or medicine or go to work or hospital.
Speaking after a seven-hour cabinet meeting on Saturday evening, the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said “extraordinary decisions” needed to be taken as Spain grappled with a “health, social and economic crisis”.
Spain is the country most affected by the coronavirus in Europe after Italy, and has so far confirmed 6,251 cases of the virus and 193 deaths. Italy has already taken similar measures.
Sánchez said the central government would direct the response and that all the local, national and regional police forces would come under the command of the interior ministry. He also said that the army was standing by and ready to help with the emergency response.
The prime minister confirmed that people would be required to stay home from Monday morning and that all non-essential shops would close, along with bars, restaurants, cafes and cinemas.
Supermarkets, small food shops, pharmacies, petrols stations and pet supply shops are among those businesses that will remain open.
He said: “During the state of emergency, people will only be allowed out on to public streets for the following reasons: to buy food, basic or pharmaceutical items; to attend medical centres; to go to and from work; to look after children, older people or those with disabilities or who are especially vulnerable, and to attend financial or insurance offices on force majeure grounds.”
Sánchez acknowledged that the measures needed to tackle the coronavirus would have a “big economic impact” but said the government was committed to mitigating its effects.
Sudan has ordered the closure of schools and universities for one month from Saturday to stop the spread of coronavirus, a statement from the prime minister’s office said.
The statement said all public gatherings, such as weddings and social events, will also be banned.
Meanwhile, Rwanda, Seychelles and Central African Republic confirmed their first coronavirus cases on Saturday – bringing the total number of African countries that have reported positive tests for the virus to 23.
In case you missed it, here is a video from Saturday’s White House briefing in which Donald Trump revealed he has been tested coronavirus.
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez has also announced that medium-distance rail transport will be reduced as part of the government’s state of emergency measures.
This restriction on freedom of movement will come into effect on Saturday.
Sanchez added that it would not be reasonable to hold planned regional elections in Galicia and the Basque country amid the coronavirus lockdown.
My colleague Oliver Holmes has the latest in Israel:
Similar to France, Israel has announced a partial closure of the country, shutting down hotels, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and malls.
Speaking on Saturday night at a news conference, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said pharmacies, supermarkets and banks should continue to operate. He added people should remain two metres apart to prevent the spread of the virus.
In an unclear move that raised immediate privacy issues, Netanyahu announced the government also intended to use technology developed for counter-terrorism to track people with the virus digitally.
He said the decision depended on approval from the justice ministry. “The enemy is invisible, but we must locate it,” Netanyahu said.
There have been 193 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Israel, with no deaths, according to the health ministry.
Spain to be placed under 15-day nationwide lockdown – Sanchez
Spain is to be placed under nationwide lockdown as part of state emergency measures to control the spread of coronavirus, prime minister Pedro Sanchez has announced.
Following in the footsteps of France, Sanchez said that shops will close for 15-days. Pharmacies and those selling other basic necessities will be exempted.
He added that the crisis requires “extraordinary decisions” and confirmed that the government has agreed a state of emergency.
Armed forces will be available to help in the response effort if needed.
In case you are just tuning in, here is a round-up of the biggest developments in the coronavirus outbreak as of this evening.
If there’s anything I’ve missed, please drop me a message on Twitter (@aaronwala). Due to the enormous interest in coronavirus, I won’t be able to respond to everything, but I will do my best to take a look
Morocco has suspended flights to and from at least 25 countries as the country’s total number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 17.
On Saturday Morocco’s foreign ministry announced it would extend an earlier travel ban that covered China, Spain, Italy, France and Algeria.
Other countries with which air travel is now suspended are Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chad, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Jordan, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritania, Netherlands, Niger, Norway, Oman, Portugal, Senegal, Switzerland, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey and the UAE.
Morocco has closed all schools and cancelled gatherings of more than 50 people to stop the coronavirus spreading. One person has died and another has recovered from the virus.
Dubai said on Saturday it was temporarily suspending operations at four major theme parks and tourist attractions until the end of March amid coronavirus concerns.
The emirate’s government media office said in a statement that Motiongate Dubai, Legoland Dubai, Legoland Waterpark Dubai and Bollywood Parks Dubai would be closed to ensure the health and safety of guests and employees.
My colleague Kim Willsher has the latest from France:
France has announced the closure of all places “non essential” to public life including restaurants, cafes, cinemas and discos from midnight Saturday.
“We must absolutely limit movement, meetings and contacts,” French prime minister Edouard Philippe said on Saturday evening. Food shops, tobacconists, banks and public transport will remain open, he said.
Philippe said the measure was being imposed after another meeting with the country’s scientific committee.
The announcement came as Jérome Salomon, director of the French health authority, confirmed the WHO’s assessment, that Europe is “the epicentre of the epidemic”.
“In France, we are confronted with the start of a national epidemic with a rapid and intense spread in numerous zones,” Salomon said.
The first round of the municipal elections will still go ahead on Sunday.
The UK’s Foreign Office has said it is working to support Britons affected by the US’s extended travel ban, which comes into effect from midnight on Monday (EST).
“This is a decision for the US. We are working to provide as much information and support to affected British nationals as possible,” a spokesman said. “We continue to coordinate closely with the US and other international partners on the global response to coronavirus.”
The Embassy of Ireland in the USA tweeted to confirm the travel from the US to Ireland will continue:
Irish airline Aer Lingus said: “We’re assessing the impact of new US government restrictions announced today on travel from Ireland and the UK to the United States.
“We will communicate directly with affected guests as soon as possible.
“All travel before 31 May can be changed to a later date and/or destination. No change fees apply. A fare difference may apply.”
Lithuania will shut its borders to foreigners from Monday to try stop the spread of coronavirus, the government has said in a statement.
France to close most shops, cafes, restaurants and cinemas – Philippe
France will shut down cafes, shops, restaurants and cinemas to stem the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, prime minister Édouard Philippe has announced.
Philippe said public transport will be kept open but asked citizens to limit their use, Reuters news agency reported.
The closures will come into effect at midnight on Saturday.
He told a news conference that exceptions on the shop ban would include food stores, pharmacies and gas stations.
Spain’s government failed to agree on Saturday on a new package of economic and social measures to mitigate the impact of the fight against the coronavirus, a source close to the negotiations told Reuters.
With schools shut across Spain and a first package of economic steps announced on Thursday, the government was expected to go further on Saturday.
The source said ministers disagreed in a seven hour cabinet meeting on Saturday on what the new measures should be. The source added that the government would aim to agree on them on Tuesday.
Prime minister Pedro Sanchez is due to announce emergency measures including the shutting down of most shops in a news conference scheduled for 8pm local time.
France has reported a total of 4,499 confirmed coronavirus cases – up from 3,661 on Friday, according to official figures.
Slovenia has recorded its first coronavirus-related death, according to national broadcaster TV Slovenia.
A second patient has died of the Covid-19 virus in Ireland, the country’s chief medical officer Tony Holohan told journalists on Saturday.
The total number of confirmed cases in the country has increased to 129 from 90.
Two people in the Seychelles have tested positive for coronavirus, the country’s health commissioner has confirmed.
Donald Trump confirmed that he had taken the test for coronavirus at a White House briefing today – although the result was not yet available.
The news came just before vice-president Mike Pence clarified the existing US travel ban would be extended to the UK and Ireland to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
Read the full report from my colleagues in the US here.
Norway will temporarily shut all its airports from Monday in a move to curb the spread of coronavirus the country’s prime minister, Erna Solberg, said on Saturday.
The government is ready to do all that is needed to secure Norway’s economy, hit by business shutdowns due to the outbreak, and would seek to import medical equipment from China, Solberg told a news conference.
The coronavirus death toll in Spain reached 190 on Saturday, up from 120 the day before.
Kind-hearted people in the UK have been shrugging off the sense of apocalypse by offering to lend a helping hand to those in need, notifying them by dropping leaflets through their letterboxes.
My colleague Simon Murphy reports:
Here’s the latest on the situation in Colombia and Venezula from my Bogota-based colleague Joe Parkin Daniels :
Colombia overnight closed its border with Venezuela in order to stem the spread of Covid-19 in the South American nation, a move that is likely to have lasting ramifications given the scale of Venezuela’s migration crisis.
About 4.5 million people have fled Venezuela which, despite boasting the planet’s largest proven oil reserves, remains mired in years-long economic and social turmoil. Hyperinflation is rampant, with shortages in basic foodstuffs and medical supplies already a daily reality. Around 1.4 million of those that have left have arrived to Colombia, which shares a 1,378-mile border with Venezuela.
Authorities estimate as many as 40,000 people cross the border every day, the majority of which buy supplies - medicines and food staples - and return home.
The move to shut the border came overnight, after Venezuela confirmed its first two cases of Covid-19 on Friday morning.
The two countries broke diplomatic relations when Colombia ceased to recognise its embattled leader, Nicolás Maduro, as the country’s legitimate president in early 2019, as part of an ongoing US-led coalition to oust him from office. Analysts say that will hamper coordination to contain a virus that does not respect borders.
Others worry that the closure will force desperate Venezuelans to cross informally, putting them at risk of armed groups operating along the border.
“Colombia’s overnight decision to ‘close’ its porous border with Venezuela won’t stop the flow of people,” tweeted Geoff Ramsey, a Venezuela expert at the Washington Office on Latin America. “But it will force them to rely more on informal crossings where they’ll be more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.”
Colombia currently has 22 confirmed cases of Covid-19, but its government appears to view Venezuela - with fewer cases - as a possible centre of an outbreak in Latin America. Iván Duque Márquez, Colombia’s president, described the closure in a statement as “a measure of protection ahead of the situation unfolding in [Venezuela].”
Márquez also announced overnight a ban on travellers who have been in Europe or Asia in the last 14 days, with the exceptions of Colombian citizens and residents.
All measures are expected to last until 30 May.
In the UK, a newborn baby tested positive for coronavirus at a north London hospital earlier today.
The child’s mother, who was taken to a north London hospital days before the birth with suspected pneumonia, has also caught the virus.
Richard Tedder, visiting professor in medical virology, Imperial College London, said this raises “concerns about the potential ways in which this transmission may have occurred”.
He told PA Media:
It is important to say at this point in time that the detection of Covid-19 nucleic acid on the sample from the child does not necessarily mean that the child was infected.
It could well have come from the mother at the time of delivery, further follow-up of the infant will clarify whether or not the infant is infected.
Previous data from colleagues in China, published in the journal The Lancet, albeit on a small number of mother and infant pairs, did not show infection in any of the infants at the time of birth. Neither did sampling of breast milk immediately after birth contain detectable virus. Thus, the UK observation of a possible neonatal transmission is unexpected and needs further confirmation.
The question of risk to a newly born child being nursed by a mother who is known to be infected is a matter that will need careful consideration.
The absence of detectable virus in breast milk would appear to reduce the risk of breastfeeding however the close, intimate and entirely understandable contact between a mother and her baby will raise questions about how best to care for them. Compounding this too is the lack of knowledge of the clinical outcome of neonatal infection, should this actually occur.
Italy’s coronavirus death toll rose to 1,441 from 1,266 on Friday, according to official data. The number of confirmed cases has risen to 21,157 from 17,660 over the same period.
The filming in Mexico of a big budget Steven Spielberg-produced Amazon mini-series, starring Spanish actor Javier Bardem, has been suspended due to concerns about the coronavirus, according to a letter sent to cast and crew on Friday and seen by Reuters.
The production entitled Mexica, which centers on the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, began filming two weeks ago on location in Mexico City. Mexico has so far confirmed 26 cases of coronavirus.
Only a skeletal wrap crew will continue working through next week, and cast and crew were informed that production might resume in December depending on how the public health crisis develops.
The project’s budget is believed to be tens of millions of dollars, and dozens of local contractors will be affected by the suspension. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Latvia will also close its borders to all foreigners from Tuesday to stop the spread of the outbreak.
Latvia has banned all public gatherings of more than 50 people, its prime minister, Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš, has announced.
There are more than 2,200 coronavirus cases in the US but the country has not yet “reached peak” of the outbreak, according to top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci.
US extends travel ban to UK and Ireland from Monday – vice-president
US vice-president Mike Pence has confirmed the country’s travel ban will be extended to the UK and Ireland from midnight on Monday EST.
He said: “In our taskforce meeting today the president has made a decision to suspend all travel to the UK and Ireland, effective midnight Monday night, eastern standard time.”
Mr Pence said there had been a “unanimous recommendation” from health experts to extend the travel ban.
“Americans in the UK or Ireland can come home, legal residents can come home ... they will will be funnelled through specific airports and processed.”
Houthi rebels in control of northern Yemen have said that all passenger flights to and from the capital Sana’a will be suspended for two weeks to prevent Covid-19 from reaching the country, where five years of war have already decimated healthcare infrastructure.
The announcement is particularly painful for many Yemenis in poor health since medical evacuation flights have only just restarted after years of negotiations with the Saudi-led military coalition, which controls the country’s airspace.
Yemen, Libya and Syria - all of which have significant populations of displaced people and failing healthcare systems - are yet to announce any cases of the novel coronavirus. Warring parties have insisted that the three Middle Eastern nations remain free of the pandemic, despite fears from aid agencies that cases may be being covered up or the virus may already be present but undetected.
For Yemen in particular, where over 3 million people are displaced and over a third of the population needs humanitarian aid, an outbreak of coronavirus could be catastrophic.
Iran, one of the worst hit countries, has close ties to both the Houthi administration in Yemen and Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria.
The Syrian regime said on Friday that schools would close and most public events are cancelled until further notice as a precautionary measure.
Unconfirmed reports from doctors in Damascus suggest the Syrian capital may already be dealing with the virus.
Here is the latest from Martin Pengelly, who is at the White House press conference:
Donald Trump attended the press briefing and spoke first, wearing a blue “USA” baseball cap and a suit and shirt but no tie.
Eventually, he said he had taken a coronavirus test – a subject of contention for days after he had contact with a number of people who have since tested positive.
The president opened by praising state and local measures around the coronavirus and the US taskforce, members of which were ranged behind him at the podium. He also thanked members of Congress for passing a coronavirus economic relief bill on Friday night. It still has to pass the Senate.
Trump thanked Steven Mnuchin, his treasury secretary who negotiated the bill with Nancy Pelosi. He did not directly thank the House speaker.
He also boasted about the effect on the stock markets of his Friday Rose Garden press conference, in which he declared a national emergency and announced measures to prepare for the pandemic, but also made a series of claims which were immediately questioned and attacked a reporter who asked about cuts to White House pandemic preparedness teams.
Behind Trump stood surgeon general Jerome Adams, Dr Deborah Birx, housing secretary Ben Carson and Medicare and Medicaid administrator Seema Verma and Dr Anthony Fauci, all for the most part expressionless.
Trump tried to leave without answering questions but was kept in the room.
“By the way, I had my temperature taken coming into the room … and I also took the test,” he said.
He did not reveal the result.
Trump also explained why he continues to shake people by the hand, as he did conspicuously in the Friday press conference.
“Maybe people shouldn’t be shaking hands for the long term,” the famous germaphobe said, though he said he still did it because he had to, as president, as people expected it.
Donald Trump is asked whether he is going to extend the Europe travel ban to the UK and Ireland. He said: “We’re looking at it very seriously because they have had a little bit of activity unfortunately. We actually have looked at it already and that is going to be announced.”
Donald Trump has been asked why he has still been shaking people’s hands at press conference, contrary to official guidance. He said: “People come up to me … they put their hands out. It’s sort of a natural reflex. We’re all getting out of that.”
The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in Lombardy, the Italian region that has been worst affected by the crisis, rose by 76 to 966 on Saturday, according to the region’s senior health official Giulio Gallera.
The number of new cases rose by 1,865 to 11,685, he told a news conference.
The latest national death toll is due to be released later in the day. On Friday, the Italy-wide tally stood at 1,266.
Denmark has confirmed its first coronavirus-related death, according to Reuters.
Vice-president Mike Pence is about to speak at a press briefing at the White House.
Reporters had their temperatures taken as they arrived and one was turned away, US media said.
Ahead of the press conference, Reuters reported that the US government was set to announce an expansion of its travel ban on most European countries to include the UK and Ireland.
Donald Trump originally announced the 30-day ban for travellers from 26 countries, which took effect at midnight on Friday.
Hi, it’s Aaron Walawalkar here taking over the coronavirus live blog in London. I’ll be bringing you all the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak, as Reuters reports that US travel restrictions on Britain and Ireland are likely to come into effect on Monday night.
If you spot anything I miss, do drop me a message on Twitter @aaronwala. Due to the enormous interest in coronavirus, I won’t be able to respond to everything, but I will do my best to take a look. Thanks in advance!
Summary so far
I’m handing over the blog now. Thank you very much to all those who got in touch with information.
Here’s some of the key updates so far:
- Syria has shut schools and cancelled events, but still insists it has no cases.
- A further 10 people have died in the UK since yesterday, almost doubling the death toll from 11 to 21.
- Jordan is stopping all flights in and out of the country.
- The Spanish government is set to announce a national lockdown, which would require all citizens to stay at home unless they need food, medical supplies or emergencies.
- Authorities in Madrid have told residents to stay at home, as Seville cancel Holy Week celebrations.
- India has announced that it will treat coronavirus as a notified disaster, which will enable it to take greater measures as part of the state disaster response fund.
- In China, the number of new coronavirus cases brought to the mainland from overseas has exceeded the number of locally transmitted infections, for the first time.
- Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, will shut schools and organise remote teaching for a minimum of two weeks.
- Cambodia has banned entry of visitors from Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the US.
- Austria has announced a 4bn euros ($4.4bn) aid package available to deal with the economic impact of coronavirus.
Here is the most recent summary of confirmed cases and deaths from Reuters, and this article gives a slightly deeper summary with the biggest stories as of a few hours ago:
As concerns are growing amongst tenants, who fear they might be unable to pay rent if they can’t work due to coronavirus, renters’ organisations in the UK have called for a suspension of rent payments during the outbreak.
London Renters Union has sent an open letter to the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, urging him to join them in fighting to end rent payments and evictions, housing the homeless to protect them against the pandemic, and ensuring that homes are fit for people to self-isolate in.
In Edinburgh, the city’s tenants union has highlighted that landlords with buy-to-let mortgages could be allowed to stop paying their mortgage during the outbreak, but still claim money off tenants. They are concerned that renters may be forced to work during the pandemic to keep a roof over their heads.
Here is the latest from Greece, from my colleague Helena Smith.
Greece has announced it is halting all remaining flights to Italy following a mini-cabinet meeting chaired by prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
It was also decided to further bolster Greece’s health system by hiring hundreds more doctors and nurses to cope with demands posed by coronavirus.
Hospitals nationwide were at the sharp end of budget cuts ordered by international creditors in return for rescue loans during the country’s long-running debt crisis.
Greek authorities have confirmed 190 Covid-19 cases so far but the number is likely to rise when new figures are released later today. The death toll rose to three this morning.
The government spokesman, Stelios Petsas, announced he was going into self-imposed isolation and would be working from home after his wife was diagnosed with the virus.
Almost all of downtown Athens now resembles a ghost town. Streets in the ancient Plaka district beneath the Acropolis were eerily empty with cafes and tavernas boarded up and closed.
Archaeological sites were also shut until 30 March. The Olympic flame, which was lit in ancient Olympia on Thursday for the Tokyo 2020 games – and in more normal times would now be on a cross-country relay – arrived at Athens’ Kallimarmaro stadium this afternoon, five days ahead of schedule after the race was cancelled because of public health fears.
It will remain in the stadium until it is handed over to the Organising Committee Tokyo 2020 on 19 March.
Like other archaeological sites, the stadium is closed.
Egypt is set to close all schools and universities for two weeks, Reuters are reporting.
Hundreds of members of the scientific community have sent two open letters to the British government, voicing their concerns about the response to the coronavirus outbreak.
One comes from 198 academics in the field of maths and science, calling for urgent measures of social distancing across the UK.
It says: “Going for ‘herd immunity’ at this point does not seem a viable option, as this will put NHS at an even stronger level of stress, risking many more lives than necessary.”
Another letter has been signed by 164 behavioural scientists. It raises concerns about the idea of “behavioural fatigue” – the idea that if the public are instructed to take preventative measures too early, they’ll eventually revert back to prior behaviour.
The letter suggests that this has been a cornerstone of British government policy on coronavirus and sheds doubt on the evidence behind this.
“While we fully support an evidence-based approach to policy that draws on behavioural science, we are not convinced that enough is known about ‘behavioural fatigue’ or to what extent these insights apply to the current exceptional circumstances,” it says.
“If ‘behavioural fatigue’ truly represents a key factor in the government’s decision to delay high-visibility interventions, we urge the government to share an adequate evidence base in support of that decision. If one is lacking, we urge the government to reconsider these decisions,” it ends.
Here’s another video from Italy, where neighbours are playing music together from their apartment, whilst they are in quarantine.
Syria has shut schools, cancelled most public events, and reduced public sector hours to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The Health Ministry said the steps were “preventative” and “precautionary” and intended to raise the health sector’s readiness to control the virus should it emerge, and says there have been no cases in the country.
There’s a very sweet video on Twitter showing a young boy in Milan, Italy, shouting from the balcony of his home to the Red Cross, who are are bringing food to doctors.
It translates roughly as “thanks and good job”.
Northern Ireland schools will be closed for “at least 16 weeks” but they will they will not be shutting immediately, the region’s first minister, Arlene Foster, has said after a summit with the Ireland’s taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.
The disclosure gives a glimpse of the scale of coronavirus crisis to come and will lead to questions as to whether a four-month schools closure is being planned for the rest of the UK.
Foster confirmed that schools in Northern Ireland will close at some point in an effort to stem the spread of the virus but it was a matter of timing.
We’ll have a full report soon.
The Middle Eastern kingdom Jordan says it will suspend all passenger flights in and out of the country from Tuesday, according to a government statement just issued.
Schools and universities will be closed and so will tourist sites including Petra as part of a number of proposals to limit public gatherings in the country.
The measures may seem onerous, given Jordan has a single confirmed case of the virus - a citizen who returned from Italy and was identified as being infected on 2 March.
But earlier today the Canadian government announced that one of its citizens who recently returned from Jordan had tested positive, raising the possibility there are undetected cases here.
The tour guide who showed the woman around has been quarantined but there’s no idea yet how the Canadian contracted the disease.
Jordan will would stop all incoming and outgoing passenger flights into the country from Tuesday, the prime minister, Omar Razzaz, has confirmed.
He also said that universities and schools would be closed for two weeks, with all tourist sites, sports and cinemas also set to close.
Jordan had one confirmed Covid-19 case, but this was successfully treated and the patient left hospital on Friday. It had already closed its borders with Egypt, Iraq, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel.
The number of coronavirus cases in South Africa has risen to 38, up from 24 a day earlier, the ministry of health has said.
As of 9am on Saturday, there were 1,140 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, and 21 deaths, Public Health England has confirmed.
This is an increase of 342, and ten further deaths, since yesterday.
37,746 people have been tested, of which 36,606 were confirmed negative.
10 more deaths reported in England
Ten more patients who tested positive for the coronavirus have died, bringing the death toll in the UK to 21, NHS England has said.
The first minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, has said that when schools in Northern Ireland are closed, they will remain shut for a minimum of 16 weeks.
The Welsh Rugby Union has suspended all events until the 30 March.
My colleague Lisa O’Carroll is at the press conference with Irish politicians following their meeting on coronavirus. She is live tweeting the event, and you can follow her @lisaocarroll for breaking updates from there.
All parties have said they accept that schools will close, it is now a matter of when.
The health minister has said that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are going to launch joint ‘awareness campaigns’, and added that individuals must take personal responsibility to stop the spread of the virus.
The number of coronavirus cases in the Netherlands has risen by 155 to 959, with two further deaths.
Dubai has cancelled all events planned in March and has banned hotels from hosting weddings, Reuters is reporting.
The Spanish government have drafted a decree to put the country into lockdown, according to reports in the Spanish media.
The reports say that Spaniards will be told to stay home except to buy food or medical supplies, go to hospital, work or in the case of other emergencies.
I’ll update you when we get official confirmation on this.
Germany is urging people returning from Italy, Switzerland and Austria to self-isolate for up to two weeks, in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus.
“Especially travellers and skiers returning from Switzerland, Italy and Austria should stay at home as far as possible for up to two weeks, even without symptoms,” the health minister, Jens Spahn tweeted.
As of Friday, there were 3,062 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Germany, with five deaths, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said.
This photograph of a Tesco store, in Colney Hatch, London has been circulating on Twitter. Michelle Davies, who took the photograph, described the scene as looking “like there’s been a riot”.
“The selfishness of some people filling their trolleys with multiple packs and leaving none for others is staggering,” she said.
However, others have suggested that many of the products on the floor could be waiting to be restocked.
Thanks to all those sending information. Just a reminder that if I miss anything, you can drop me a message on Twitter @mollyblackall. I won’t be able to reply to all of the messages, but will endeavour to read them!
Authorities in Madrid have told residents to stay at home, as Seville cancel the Holy Week celebrations.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government have come under fire for getting off to a slow start with coronavirus. They only began to introduce serious measures this week as numbers of coronavirus rates soared. The opposition has criticised the government for letting events like International Women’s Day marches go ahead a week ago.
As well as urging people to stay at home, Madrid city council has just announced that all parks in the capital will be closed from 4pm local time today.
“Given the crowds of people who are unfortunately ignoring all the warnings and congregating in Madrid’s public spaces, the mayor has given the order to close all of the city’s parks and gardens from 4pm,” it said in a tweet.
There are now 5,753 cases and 136 deaths in Spain. 2,940 of the cases are in the Madrid region
India has recorded its second coronavirus death – a 68-year-old woman in Delhi who caught the virus from her son who had travelled to Italy and Switzerland. The son developed symptoms a fortnight after returning to India. Officials are trying to trace the 1,500 people he may have been in contact with at the large plant where he worked.
Her family complained that the cemetery they took her to refused to cremate her. Crematoriums in India tended to be crowded and the staff felt at risk. It was only when doctors arrived to prescribe the right protocol that her last rites were performed. The number of coronavirus cases in India stands at 84.
With no hand sanitisers available, the New Delhi government has designated them ‘essential commodities’ so that anyone hoarding them or selling them at inflated prices can be punished by law.
As stories trickle in of some people concealing their travel history to affected areas or refusing to be tested and, if necessary, isolated, the Delhi government has also invoked the Epidemic Act. This allows district magistrates to take coercive action to isolate high-risk people.
The wife of a Google employee in Bengaluru, for example, fled her home and vanished last week. Officials found that she had flown to Delhi – at the other end of the country - and travelled by train to Agra to her parents’ home.
Across many states, social life is being curbed with weddings, engagement ceremonies and birthday parties banned in the south Indian state of Karnataka. The message to Indians is to stay at home and avoid large gatherings. Several states have closed swimming pools, gyms, cinemas, night clubs, and theatres.
A petition calling for the UK to go into lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus has reached more than 110,000 signatures, meaning it will be considered for parliamentary debate.
It encourages the UK to follow the containment procedures of countries that have been widely affected by the outbreak, by restricting unnecessary travel and discouraging public gatherings.
“It is time the government should prioritise the health of the public and should consider how vital it is to implement effective containment now,” the petition says. “It is better to spend money to contain the virus and treating the relatively low numbers who are ill now rather than wait for more casualties.”
The government responds to all petitions with more than 10,000 signatures, and considers any petition with more than 100,000 signatures for parliamentary debate.
This video explores how Islam has been impacted by coronavirus. It follows Kuwait changing the call to prayer to tell people to pray in their homes, rather than at a mosque.
More from Sam Jones, our correspondent in Madrid:
Seville has announced that it will be cancelling the city’s world famous Holy Week processions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Andalucían capital’s mayor, Juan Espadas Cejas, said it was the hardest decision he had taken in his five years in office, but added: “The declaration of the state of emergency, together with the need to safeguard public health and to allow enough time for a return to normality in the city, justify this move.”
Espadas said he was confident that the people of Seville would understand why the decision had been taken.
The cancellation of the spectacular but sombre parades, which draw huge crowds of foreign visitors, comes as tourist bookings plummet.
Last year, nearly 84 million people visited Spain, 18 million from the UK. Tourism is the nation’s third biggest industry, accounting for 11% of GDP. Even before the severe restrictions, including schools closures and bans on large public events, announced in the Madrid area, bookings were down.
According to the Spanish hoteliers’ confederation, reservations were already down 20-30%, in particular for holidays in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic and Canary Islands, in February compared with last year. Hotel bookings were down 24% in Madrid and 20% in Barcelona.
The government in India has announced that it will treat coronavirus as a notified disaster, which will enable it to take greater measures as part of the state disaster response fund.
The Labour leadership candidate Lisa Nandy is set to call for an aid package like that delivered after the second world war.
Speaking at the National Union of Mineworkers in Barnsley today, Nandy will call for greater transparency about the expert advice received by the government, more social care funding to protect older people, and a Covid-19 workers’ taskforce to ensure that workers with insecure and low paid jobs don’t arrive at work unwell.
She will also call for a consultation with council and community leaders, along with support for charities that tackle loneliness, to address the risks of self isolation.
“We need the equivalent of a Marshall Plan to protect our older people. After a decade of underfunding, a virus that could affect up to 80% of the population will not be dealt with by our NHS alone,” she will say.
China: Cases from abroad exceed those infected locally for the first time
In China, the number of new coronavirus cases brought to the mainland from overseas has exceeded the number of locally transmitted infections, for the first time.
This occurred on Friday, data from the National Health Commission showed.
Mainland China had 11 new confirmed cases on Friday, up from eight cases a day earlier, but only four of those, all in Hubei province, were locally transmitted.
The other seven – four in Shanghai, one Beijing and two in Gansu – came from travellers coming into China from Italy, the United States and Saudi Arabia.
This indicates a slowing of the virus in China, which has been at the centre of the outbreak.
Japan has said it will take “bold, unprecedented” steps to protect the economy, the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has said.
Abe urged international cooperation to combat the impact of coronavirus on the global economy.
Abe also said Japan would consider various options, including a proposal by ruling party lawmakers to temporarily cut the country’s sales tax rate, to support an economy suffering “quite a big blow” from the coronavirus outbreak.
“The near-term focus is on containing the virus. After that, we need to put Japan’s economy back on a solid footing. We will take bold, unprecedented steps to achieve this,” he told a news conference.
“The impact of the coronavirus [on the global economy] has been enormous and markets are suffering disruptions,” he said. “The government will closely coordinate with other countries as well as with the Bank of Japan. If necessary, we’ll respond appropriately in line with agreements made by the G7 and G20.”
There have been another 22 positive cases in Wales overnight, bringing the total number of people infected with coronavirus to 60.
Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, will shut schools and organise remote teaching for a minimum of two weeks in an attempt to halt the spread of coronavirus.
The announcement was made today by Jakarta’s governor, following reports of 27 more cases, bringing the total to 96. The number of deaths increased to five.
While most case are in Jakarta, cases were also reported in cities in western and central Java, Manado on Sulawesi island and Pontianak on Borneo island.
“We must massively, in an integrated way and without panic, search and find, and isolate positive cases,” Yurianto said. He added that “a community-based approach” was set to be adopted to prevent healthy people from getting sick.
Leo Varadkar and Arlene Foster are to meet on Saturday to discuss an all-of-Ireland approach to combatting coronavirus.
With mass gatherings including sporting events and concerts to be banned across the UK from next weekend, pressure was growing on Northern Irish leaders to close schools in line with the move south of the border.
The caretaker taoiseach and first minister will meet in Armagh as part of a wider delegation involving Ireland’s chief medical officer, who has been acting on Irish as well as EU modelling.
You can read the full story here:
In Brunei, 38 of the total 40 coronavirus cases in the country had been linked to the religious gathering, as of Saturday.
A total of 85 Bruneians were present at the the gathering, 18 of whom went on to test positive. The remainder of the 38 are their immediate family members, friends or co-workers, the health ministry said.
New cases in Brunei include a nine-month-old baby, the child of a man who attended the religious event.
The speaker of Brunei’s legislative council called for the current session to end on Saturday, a week ahead of schedule, because of coronavirus concerns.
Malaysia has confirmed 41 new coronavirus today.
Most of the cases are connected to a religious event which occurred on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur and was attended by around 10,000 people.
This brings the total number of cases in Malaysia to 238, 81 of which were linked to the same event held at a mosque between February 27 and March 1.
The prime minister, Muyiddin Yassin, said on Friday that the country was facing a “second wave” of infections, and warned of an impact on economic growth.
To contain the spread of the virus, all gatherings including international meetings, sports, social and religious events would be cancelled or postponed until after April, he said.
Reuters initially reported this as ‘all’ cases, but they’ve corrected this to ‘most’. Sorry for any confusion!
Namibia has announced that it is suspending travel to and from Qatar, Ethiopia and Germany for 30 days, with immediate effect.
It comes after the country confirmed its first cases of coronavirus.
Here is an update from Brazil, from my colleague Tom Phillips, the Guardian’s Latin America correspondent:
Rio de Janeiro is starting to go into shutdown mode because of the coronavirus crisis, which looks set to worsen in Brazil in the coming days.
On Friday night Rio’s governor, Wilson Witzel, announced that theatres, cinemas, sports stadiums and nightclubs would be shuttered here for a fortnight while beaches could also be sealed off to prevent large numbers of people coming together.
“This is a moment to stay at home so we can control this epidemic,” Witzel told reporters.
A hospital in western Rio is reportedly being prepared to deal with the anticipated spike in coronavirus cases here.
“One thing is for sure: depending on the speed with which the epidemic spreads, the stress on our health system could be brutal,” a prominent Brazilian doctor, Drauzio Varella, wrote in the Folha de São Paulo newspaper on Friday.
Global cases: an overview
Reuters news agency have compiled this very comprehensive (albeit very long) list of the current number of coronavirus cases across the world. The figures are based on statements from health ministries and officials.
It only includes those with 10 or more confirmed cases, or reported deaths. The first number referring to the number of confirmed cases, and the second to the number of deaths.
- Mainland China 80,801, 3,176
- Italy 17,660, 1,266
- Iran 11,364, 514
- Spain 5,232, 129
- France 3,661, 79
- South Korea 8,086, 72
- US 2,287, 47
- Japan 1,423, 28
- Switzerland 1,139, 11
- UK 798, 11
- Netherlands 804, 10
- Iraq 101, 9
- Germany 3,675, 8
- San Marino 80, 7
- Philippine 64, 6
- Hong Kong 134, 4
- Indonesia 69, 4
- Belgium 559, 3
- Australia 199, 3
- Lebanon 77, 3
- Egypt 93, 2
- India 82, 2
- Poland 68, 2
- Argentina 34, 2
- Algeria 26, 2
- Norway 996, 1
- Sweden 814, 1
- Austria 504, 1
- Canada 198, 1
- Greece 190, 1
- Ireland 90, 1
- Thailand 75, 1
- Taiwan 50, 1
- Chile 43, 1
- Luxembourg 38, 1
- Albania 33, 1
- Bulgaria 31, 1
- Panama 27, 1
- Ecuador 19, 1
- Azerbaijan 15, 1
- Morocco 7, 1
- Ukraine 3, 1
- Guyana 1, 1
- Sudan 1, 1
- Denmark 804, 0
- Qatar 320, 0
- Bahrain 210, 0
- Singapore 200, 0
- Malaysia 197, 0
- Finland 155, 0
- Brazil 151, 0
- Israel 143, 0
- Czech 141, 0
- Republic Slovenia 141, 0
- Iceland 134, 0
- Portugal 112, 0
- Kuwait 100, 0
- Romania 95, 0
- Saudi Arabia 86, 0
- UAE 85, 0
- Estonia 79, 0
- Russia 45, 0
- Vietnam 44, 0
- Peru 38, 0
- Brunei 37, 0
- Palestine 35, 0
- Serbia 35, 0
- Croatia 32, 0
- Slovakia 32, 0
- Pakistan 28, 0
- Georgia 25, 0
- South Africa 24, 0
- Costa Rica 23, 0
- Belarus 21, 0
- Senegal 21,0
- Hungary 19, 0
- Oman 19, 0
- Bosnia 18, 0
- Latvia 17, 0
- Colombia 16, 0
- Tunisia 16, 0
- Mexico 15, 0
- Cyprus 14, 0
- North Macedonia 14, 0
- Malta 12, 0
- Macau 10, 0
- Bolivia 10, 0
A newborn baby has tested positive for coronavirus in London, thought to be the youngest case of the virus in the UK.
You can read more from my colleague Simon Murphy here:
Cambodia has banned entry of visitors from Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the US.
The ban will last for 30 days, beginning on 17 March, the ministry of health has announced.
The ban came after Cambodia confirmed two new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number in the country to seven. The patient were both foreign nationals, a 49-year-old Canadian teacher and a 33-year-old Belgian man on Friday.
The Canadian national’s two children tested negative for the virus though his school has been closed, the ministry and the school said.
Schools in the capital Phnom Penh and Siem Reap province, where coronavirus cases had been detected, were ordered closed on Saturday, the ministry of health said.
However, the country hasn’t banned travellers from China, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.
“The kingdom of Cambodia has subsequently detected the Covid-19 virus on different foreign nationals, which requires immediate measures to prevent the spread and importation of the Covid-19 virus into Cambodia,” the minister of health, Mam Bunheng, said in the statement.
“Therefore, the ministry of health takes measures to ban foreigners from Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the United States from entering the country for 30 days, effective 17 March 2020,” he added.
Sam Jones, our correspondent in Madrid, has the latest on the situation in Spain:
The Spanish government is meeting this morning to decide what urgent measures to take under the state of emergency that was announced yesterday and will be declared later today.
The emergency powers, set out in article 116 of the constitution, allow the government to limit the movement of people and vehicles in specified places, to temporarily requisition goods, to take over factories and businesses, to ration the consumption of basic items, and to issue the necessary orders to ensure the provision of services.
The article has not been used since 2010, when it was enacted in response to an air traffic controllers’ strike. The state of emergency will initially apply for two weeks, but can be extended with parliamentary approval.
The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, is due to speak at 2pm local time once the cabinet meeting is over.
Meanwhile, all non-essential shops in the Madrid and Galicia regions have shut on the orders of the regional governments. All non-food shops, cafés, bars, restaurants, cinemas, gyms and non-food shops have been ordered shut for a fortnight in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
The only businesses permitted to remain open are supermarkets, bakeries, butcher’s shops, fishmongers, greengrocers, petrol stations, pharmacies, tobacconists and newspaper kiosks.
On Friday night, the Catalan president, Quim Torra announced plans to close off the north-eastern Spanish region and called on the central government to assist by authorising the closure of ports, airports and railways.
“The evolution of the contagion calls for most drastic action,” Torra said on Friday night. “We need to restrict entry and exit to protect ourselves.”
While Catalonia is one of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, major transport routes and hubs come under the mandate of the central government.
Spain, the European country most affected by the virus after Italy, has reported more than 5,200 cases and 132 deaths.
For those just joining us, you can see an overview of the recent updates here:
Austria has announced a 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) aid package available to deal with the economic impact of coronavirus, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler said on Saturday.
Kogler said the money would provide “fresh blood” for the economy, and would include bridge loans and credit guarantees for businesses.
The death toll from coronavirus in Iran has risen to 611, with 12,729 confirmed cases, state TV said.
On Friday, Iran, the death toll stood at 514, with 11,364 confirmed infections.
Here is an update from my colleague Rebecca Ratcliffe, the Guardian’s south-east Asia correspondent on the situation in the Philippines:
The number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines has jumped by 34 to 98, it was confirmed on Saturday, as the national capital region prepared for major travel restrictions to be imposed tomorrow.
The country also recorded two more fatalities, bringing the death toll to eight.
The Philippines has witnessed a wave of cases over the past week, and there are fears the disease could spread quickly through overcrowded slum areas in the capital, Manila.
Officials announced on Saturday that a night curfew would be introduced in Manila, and said that people should only leave their homes during the daytime for work or urgent errands.
“If you’ll go to work, go. If you need to go out for medical treatment, go. If you’ll buy food, go, but other than that, stay home,” the interior secretary, Eduardo Año, told a news conference.
He said the public should “practice social distancing”, though doing so will be a struggle for the poorest residents who live in cramped housing with poor sanitation.
Metro Manila, which includes 16 cities, has an official population of 12 million but the real figure, including informal settlers, is believed to be much higher.
The curfew is in addition to wider measures due to be introduced on Sunday, including a ban on domestic land, sea and air travel to and from Metro Manila. Mass gatherings will be stopped and schools closed.
Foreigners traveling from countries where there is local transmission of the disease – at least 65 nations, including the UK – will also be banned from entering the country.
Kuwait authorities have temporarily closed mosques and changed the Muslim call to prayer, which normally tells people to come to mosque, to instruct them to pray at home.
The announcement came on Friday, when the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs said that the five daily prayers usually held at mosques had been cancelled.
Below is footage showing the new call to prayer ringing out in Kuwait.
Jet 2 cancel flights to mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.
Low budget airline Jet2 have cancelled all flights to mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the low budget airline said: “In response to local measures introduced throughout Spain to prevent the spread of Covid-19, including the closure of bars, restaurants, shops and activities including any watersport, we have taken the decision to cancel all flights to Mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.
“We know these local measures will have a significant impact on our customers’ holidays, which is why we have taken this decision,” it said.
The airline said it was contacting customers who were currently in those destinations, and who were set to travel to them, to advise them of their options.
It urged customers not to call, and said it was “reviewing” its programme “as a matter of urgency”.
“The health and safety of our customers is our number one priority,” it added.
Two more people have died in Greece from coronavirus, bringing the total death toll to three.
The deceased were two men, aged 67 and 90. They both had serious underlying health problems, the health ministry said.
There were 190 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Greece by Friday evening.
Italians quarantined in their own home have been singing from their balcony to support one another during the country’s lockdown.
You can read the full story here:
Abu Dhabi has announced the temporary closure of large tourist sites including the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum.
The Ferrari World theme park will also be shut under the new measures, which will be in place from 15 to 31 March.
The announcements were made in tweets from the Abu Dhabi government media office.
The Philippines capital, Manila, has announced night curfews, and urged shopping malls to close for a month.
The health department made the announcement today, as three new fatalities were confirmed, bringing the death toll in the country to eight.
It came as the Philippines experienced its biggest single day increase, with 34 new cases bringing the total number to 98.
The president, Rodrigo Duterte, has raised the country’s health emergency status to the highest level and issued quarantine measures in Manila, along with land and air travel restrictions in and out of the capital. These will take effect from 15 March.
School closures were extended school until 12 April.
The nighttime curfew will begin on 15 March 15 and continue until 14 April, but some employees will be exempt, Garcia said. People who violated the curfew would be turned back, he said, but would not be reprimanded or arrested.
“To limit the spread of the virus, we need to limit the movement of people. We are slowing down the movement of people in Metro Manila,” Jose Arturo Garcia, general manager of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, told a news conference.
Rwanda has confirmed its first case of coronavirus.
The health ministry has announced the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Rwanda.
The patient is an Indian citizen who arrived in Rwanda from Mumbai on 8 March, the health ministry said on Saturday.
“He is currently under treatment in stable condition, isolated from other patients,” the ministry said. “The tracing of all contacts has been conducted for further management.”
RwandAir, Rwanda’s national airline, announced it was suspending all flights to India until 30 April and would refund customers.
Rwanda’s case means that 19 African countries have now got coronavirus cases.
Other African nations to have reported cases of the virus include Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia.
British GP Sarah Jarvis has said she is doubtful about the UK government’s response to coronavirus.
Herd immunity works on the idea that if enough of the population become infected with a disease, they will become immune, and unable to transmit further.
“We’ve traditionally said we need about 90% herd immunity for it to work,” she said, speaking on Sky News. The government have put the estimated figure for coronavirus at 60% of the population.
“The issue we’ve got is this is a new virus and we don’t know if people will retain immunity,” she said. Whilst it is thought not to be possible to get infected twice, it is unclear how long immunity lasts.
The herd immunity approach is unlike that used in other parts of Europe, and has been thrown into doubt by the WHO.
What does coronavirus mean for pregnant women?
Jarvis said there was no evidence that the virus could be transmitted from parent to baby while the mother was pregnant, but could be transmitted once the baby was born.
She urged women who have been infected with coronavirus and are going in to labour to let hospitals know before they arrive.
Jarvis said that there had been some reports in China of pregnant women with coronavirus giving birth prematurely. However, she said that it was unclear whether this was due to labour being induced early because the mother was sick, or because of the virus directly.
Zara owner Inditex will temporarily close all of its stores in Spain from Saturday, Europa Press said.
Spain has the largest network of Zara stores, and makes about a sixth of group sales.
Spain is the fashion retailer’s largest network of stores by far, accounting for about a sixth of group sales. It also owns Massimo Dutti and Pull & Bear.
On Friday, the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, declared a state of emergency but did not specify what emergency powers he would use, or what support businesses who are forced to close would receive.
Some regions, such as Madrid and Catalonia, have decided to close bars, restaurants and shops apart from those selling essential items such as food, but this is not a nationwide policy.
Spain has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe after Italy, with 4,231 cases and 120 deaths.
The Guardian’s correspondent in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, Helena Smith, has this update:
Greece has confirmed two more deaths from Covid-19, bringing the death toll to three in a country where the number of cases rose to 190 – a jump of 73 and the biggest rise yet on Friday.
A 92-year-old from Ptolemaida, close to Kastoria in western Macedonia, died this morning after being diagnosed with the virus three days ago.
At the heart of the fur trade in Greece, Kastoria has been hard hit by coronavirus with a growing number of confirmed cases in the town among people connected to the industry.
According to state-run TV many locals has recently visited Milan for the fashion show.
Health authorities reported that a third man, aged 67, who had been on life support in a specialised hospital unit on the Ionian island of Zakynthos, also died today.
Greece, which has closed all of its archaeological sites and museums, introduced its most draconian measures yet to curb the spread of the disease, announcing late Friday that every bar, restaurant, cafe and eatery will have to close for at least two weeks.
Malls, shopping centres, hairdressers, betting shops and brothels are among others that have also been ordered shut. Super markets, pharmacies, take-aways and hotels have been permitted to stay open.
Norway has advised its citizens not to travel abroad during the next month, and urged Norwegians currently abroad to consider returning home.
“Countries can quickly introduce travel restrictions, quarantine at arrival from countries with coronavirus, and borders can close, flights could be cancelled or other measures initiated,” the foreign minister, Ine Eriksen Søreide, said on Saturday.
Oslo’s main airport stopped admitting foreign travellers on Friday, a local municipality said. A day prior, the government invoked emergency powers to shut a range of private and public institutions, including schools and restaurants, and asked the majority of citizens to work from home where possible.
The country has also announced emergency economic measures, including the central bank making an emergency rate cut on Friday and pumping more money into banks. The government has announced a package of fiscal and regulatory measures to support the economy.
The Philippines has confirmed 34 new cases, bringing its total to 98.
This marks the largest single-day increase in confirmed cases in the country, where eight people have died from coronavirus in the country.
The number of deaths in Indonesia has risen to five, health officials have said.
The Czech government has announced it will shut most shops and restaurants for 10 days, and ban foreigners from entering the country.
From Monday, foreign travel will be banned and foreigners will be barred from arriving in the country. Food stores, pharmacies, banks, post offices, gas stations and takeaway food establishments will be exempt from the closures.
The measures come after other restrictions including closing schools and banning public events such as sports games or concerts, were announced in recent days.
“We wanted to avoid people going to shopping centres today,” the prime minister Andrej Babiš, told a news conference on Saturday, broadcast on television.
The interior minister, Jan Hamáček, said the government’s aim was to spread out the rise of infections over time to reduce the strain on the health system.
“We need people to go to work but stay home afterwards,” Hamáček said. “Those (countries) who have managed to do something about the situation say ... limit interaction among people.”
The Czech Republic had 150 cases as of Saturday morning, with no deaths. It had tested 3,094 people as of Friday evening, with 741 tests taken on Friday, according to the health ministry.
The government has been criticised for taking a heavy-handed approach, and not testing widely enough. Health workers have reported shortages of protective gear such as face masks and respirators at hospitals, senior care centres and pharmacies.
The government has said it aimed to ramp up testing by involving more laboratories and ordering 100,000 rapid-result test kits for delivery next week. Babiš said 51,000 respirators were distributed to health facilities on Friday.
Morocco has suspended flights to and from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Portugal to try and halt the spread of coronavirus, the foreign ministry announced on Saturday.
It has also suspended all flights with China, Spain, Italy, France and Algeria.
The total number of coronavirus cases in Morocco has risen to 8, including one death and one recovery.
Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, has been working from home and avoiding the White House after coming into contact with an Australian politician who later tested positive for coronavirus.
The Australian home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, who has been infected with the virus, was in Washington DC last week and met with Trump’s daughter and the US attorney general, William Barr.
The White House and justice department have been quick to downplay the situation, saying Ivanka’s decision came out of an “abundance of caution”.
“Exposures from the case were assessed and the White House medical unit confirmed, in accordance with CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance, that Ivanka is exhibiting no symptoms and does not need to self-quarantine,” the White House deputy press secretary, Judd Deere, said in a statement.
“She worked from home today out of an abundance of caution until guidance was given,” Deere added.
Barr’s spokesman also said the attorney general was not showing coronavirus symptoms. “He is staying home today and has consulted with CDC,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement. “CDC is not recommending he be tested at this point.”
It is possible that the president himself has been exposed to the virus. A Brazilian official tested positive just days after posing for a photo with the Mr Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
rump said he was not showing symptoms, though conceded he will “most likely” get a test.
Dutton woke up on Friday morning with a temperature and sore throat. He admitted himself for a test which came back positive and he has remained in hospital in Queensland.
“I feel fine and will provide an update in due course,” Dutton said in a statement.
WHO questions UK response to coronavirus
World Health Organization spokeswoman Margaret Harris has questioned the UK’s approach to developing “herd immunity” against Covid-19.
Dr Harris told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “We don’t know enough about the science of this virus, it hasn’t been in our population for long enough for us to know what it does in immunological terms.
“Every virus functions differently in your body and stimulates a different immunological profile. We can talk theories, but at the moment we are really facing a situation where we have got to look at action.”
You can read more about herd immunity, and its use with coronavirus, here:
Europe now the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak, WHO says
“Europe has now become the epicenter [sic] of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China,” World Health Organization (WHO) director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has tweeted.
“Our message to countries continues to be: you must take a comprehensive approach to fight. Not testing alone. Not contact tracing alone. Not quarantine alone. Not social distancing alone. Do it all,” he said.
He also mentioned the Covid-19 solidarity response fund, which was announced yesterday, and praised those who worked to create it.
The fund “will raise money from a wide range of donors to support the work of the WHO and partners to help countries respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“The fund, the first-of-its-kind, enables private individuals, corporations and institutions anywhere in the world to come together to directly contribute to global response efforts, and has been created by the United Nations Foundation and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation, together with WHO.”
Hello, this is Molly Blackall taking over the blog in London. I’ll be bringing you all the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak, as the global death toll reaches 5,429, with 145,369 confirmed cases. As of today, 71,694 people have recovered, according to figures from the Johns Hopkins University.
If you spot anything I miss, do drop me a message on Twitter @mollyblackall. Due to the enormous interest in coronavirus, I won’t be able to respond to everything, but I will do my best to take a look. Thanks in advance!
Apple closing all retail stores outside of Greater China
Multinational tech company Apple has just announced it will close all stores. In a statement the company said:
In all of our offices, we are moving to flexible work arrangements worldwide outside of Greater China. That means team members should work remotely if their job allows, and those whose work requires them to be on site should follow guidance to maximize interpersonal space. Extensive, deep cleaning will continue at all sites. In all our offices, we are rolling out new health screenings and temperature checks.
The global spread of COVID-19 is affecting every one of us. We will be closing all of our retail stores outside of Greater China until March 27. Our online stores are open ... All of our hourly workers will continue to receive pay in alignment with business as usual operations. We have expanded our leave policies to accommodate personal or family health circumstances created by Covid-19.
Here’s a summary of the main points of the liveblog coverage so far.
- Australia has launched a public education campaign including information on hygiene as 200 cases have been reported around the country. It comes as the chief medical officer Brendan Murphy wrote to doctors to implore them to use testing kits and protective gear responsibly. “Unfortunately, the extreme pressure on our personal protective equipment stocks continues, and the situation regarding pathology test kits, reagents and swabs is deteriorating rapidly, with kits no longer being available in some regions of the country,” Murphy wrote.
- After declaring coronavirus a national emergency US president Donald Trump said he would free up $50bn in federal resources for the states to tackle the virus. The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a coronavirus aid package that will provide free testing and paid sick leave, in a bid to limit the economic damage from a pandemic that has shuttered schools, sports arenas and offices.
- The US travel ban for 26 European countries has come into force, banning travel from the 26 countries of the Schengen area during the 14 days before their planned arrival in the United States. The travel restrictions are set to last for 30 days but do not apply to the UK or Ireland.
- Saudi Arabia has banned all flights into the kingdom for two weeks, starting Sunday, state news agency SPA reported.
- New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said all people arriving in the country, including returning citizens, will be required to isolate themselves for a fortnight. Only people arriving from the Pacific, were there are virtually no cases, are exempt from the rule. Ardern also cancelled Sunday’s memorial commemorating the first anniversary Christchurch mosque shootings.
- Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Paraguay and Peru have all suspended European flights. Argentina also announced it would suspends links with the most badly affected countries and Guatemala said it will ban arrivals from the United States and Canada.
- Cambodia announced it would refuse entry to citizens from Italy, Germany, Spain, France, and the United States, according to local media. Vietnam will also stop issuing tourist visas to citizens from Europe’s Schengen area and Britain, starting from Sunday.
- In South Korea, for a second day in a row the daily number of recovered people on Saturday (204) exceeded that of new confirmed cases (107). Meanwhile in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak began, officials reported just five new cases on Friday, the second day in a row the tally has been less than 10.
- The global death toll reached 5,429, with 145,369 cases confirmed. So far 71,694 people have recovered, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. The institution draws from official figures, and so it possible that actual figures are higher.
Jakarta closes schools, orders remote teaching
Jakarta’s governor Anies Baswedan has told a broadcasted news conference that Indonesia’s capital city will close all schools and has ordered remote teaching for at least two weeks starting next week to curb the spread of the virus.
Baswedan said out of 69 confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide, an unspecified number of people were detected in many places across Jakarta, a city of 10 million people.
The number of people under surveillance in the city had jumped to 586 people as of 12 March, compared to 129 at the beginning of the month. The number of patients suspected of having Covid-19 had surged to 261 from 39 in the same period.
Victorian courts suspend new jury trials
The chief justice of Victoria’s supreme court, Anne Ferguson, said the state’s supreme and county courts have decided to suspend all new jury trials from Monday 16 March until further notice. She said:
This means that the jury empanelment process, in which hundreds of potential jurors gather at Court, will not take place until further notice.
This precautionary decision was made after consideration of the latest expert health and government advice and recognises that members of the community may hold concerns about attending court in large groups. This suspension does not apply to trials in which the jury has already been empanelled, which will continue as usual.
The courts acknowledge this is an unprecedented decision and we are confident it is in the best interests of the Victorian community.
As we mentioned a bit earlier, the Australian government has launched a community education campaign around Covid-19 following criticism from the public and the shadow minister Chris Bowen that people have been receiving mixed-messages about what to do.
Here is the video launched as part of the public education blitz, which focusses on hygiene.
We’ve seen and heard the wonderful sound of Italians making music in their towns as an antidote to the misery of coronavirus. And here is Yo-Yo Ma with his little contribution.
Supermarket giants have put limits on purchases of food staples to prevent panic buying sparked by the coronavirus, AAP reports.
Coles and Woolworths have introduced a limit on some goods to ensure there is enough for everyone, especially the elderly, by preventing people stockpiling.
Coles customers will be limited to two packets of pasta, flour, rice, paper towels, paper tissues and hand sanitiser per transaction. But Guardian Australia’s podcast editor Miles Martignoni reports that now fruit and vegetables appear to be out-of-stock as well, at least in Sydney’s inner-west.
Thirteen new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Victoria, the state’s health department said in a statement just issued, bringing the total number of cases in Victoria to 49 and the Australian total to at least 200.
The new cases include 11 men and two women aged between 20 and 69. All cases are recovering at home in isolation, except for one person who was admitted to hospital and is stable. All new confirmed cases were acquired overseas or through close contact with known, confirmed cases of Covid-19.
Thailand reports seven new cases
Thailand has reported seven new coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 82, health officials said.
Australia to see national coronavirus publicity blitz
The Australian government will release a national publicity blitz aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19 from tomorrow (Sunday).
It comes after criticism of the government’s response to the crisis and an acknowledgement by the chief medical officer that the country’s supply of crucial medical equipment including personal protective gear and pathology test kits was “deteriorating rapidly”.
From Sunday, the government will release two separate television advertisements which encourage stringent personal hygiene and warn people who have recently been overseas or in contact with someone who has the virus to “seek medical advice” and self-isolate if they develop symptoms.
The campaign, which will also include outdoor advertising on buses, at train stations and in shopping centres, includes the slogan “together we can help stop the spread and stay healthy”.
It also advises people to only be tested for the virus “if you are experiencing flu or cold-like symptoms, and have recently returned overseas or have been indirect contact with someone who is known to have contracted coronavirus”.
Latin America suspends flights from Europe, Venezuela reports first cases
Venezuela confirmed its first two cases of the coronavirus Friday, deepening anxiety in a crisis-stricken nation where many hospitals struggle to treat even basic ailments.
The announcement prompted president Ivan Duque of neighbouring Colombia to order his nation’s border with Venezuela closed. It will also stop visitors who have been in Europe or Asia from entering the country. Colombia reported its first case of coronavirus on 6 March, which has risen to 16 cases.
Meanwhile Bolivia, Venezuela, Paraguay and Peru have suspended European flights. Argentina also announced it will suspends links with the most badly affected countries.
Guatemala will from Monday widen travel restrictions, banning arrivals from the United States and Canada, president Alejandro Giammattei said.
Panama’s health minister Rosario Turner on Friday said the number of confirmed cases has risen to 36, and includes three foreigners.
Brazil’s two biggest cities – Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo – contain most of the country’s 107 coronavirus cases registered so far. No deaths have been reported, but government officials say they expect the number of people affected to soar in the next couple of weeks. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has tested negative.
And in Mexico – Latin America’s number two economy – economic turmoil sparked by the outbreak threatens to deepen a recession that started last year. The number of cases remains low.
I’ve just been getting some reaction from the Australian medical bodies to the letter sent by the chief medical officer Prof Brendan Murphy to doctors warning them of extreme pressure on personal protective equipment stock, and shortages of testing kits.
Murphy wrote that “Pathology collection centres have also experienced large backlogs in testing appointments in some parts of Australia, and emergency testing facilities have had to be established in some areas to ensure that urgent patients can get access to testing”.
The head of the Australian Medical Association Dr Tony Bartone told Guardian Australia that people needed to take some personal responsibility and to stop pushing doctors for Covid-19 testing unless they met the criteria or were severely unwell. He said:
It’s clear that there is a significant amount of people who are being tested at the moment for no other reason than just fear, anxiety or personal interest. The criteria that have been clearly outlined in the letter are in the interest of ensuring adequate supply at this crucial time while we’re facing a significant pressure on reagents and kits.
We are really running out and it undermines the ability to identify true cases. We can’t just be testing to relieve anxiety. We can’t just be relieving anxiety in a population with no contact with a confirmed case.”
Bartone said the rush to hospitals and doctor clinics for testing was an extension of panic buying being seen in supermarkets. He urged people to think of vulnerable people including the elderly before asking for tests.
US House of Representatives passes coronavirus aid package
The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a coronavirus aid package that will provide free testing and paid sick leave, in a bid to limit the economic damage from a pandemic that has shuttered schools, sports arenas and offices, Reuters reports.
By a bipartisan vote of 363 to 40, the Democratic-controlled House passed a multi-billion dollar effort that would expand safety-net programs to help those who could be thrown out of work in the weeks to come.
Donald Trump said he supported the package, raising the likelihood that it will pass the Republican-controlled Senate next week.
The 110-page bill is the product of extensive negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Mnuchin has pressed for tax cuts, while Pelosi had pushed to expand safety-net spending. It does not include the $1 trillion payroll tax cut that Trump had called for.
Earlier in the day, Trump had accused Democrats of “not doing what’s right for the country”.
Amongst other measures, the bill will provide two weeks of paid sick and family leave for those affected by the virus. Businesses will get a tax credit to help cover the expense.
More on Australia’s chief medical officer’s letter to doctors...
Brendan Murphy said he was seeking doctors’ help in “strictly applying the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) National Guidelines in deciding whether to refer a patient for a COVID-19 pathology test”.
He said the current guidelines only recommend testing “where a patient meets both the current epidemiological and clinical criteria for testing”.
The epidemiological criteria include international travel in the 14 days before illness onset OR close or casual contact in the 14 days before illness onset with a confirmed case of Covid-19.
Murphy said the last point needs to be interpreted “sensibly”, adding: “We do not have sufficient testing kits to test everyone who attends the same large concert as a person with Covid-19.”
Murphy said clinical criteria included fever OR an acute respiratory infection, with or without fever.
Covid-19 testing kits no longer available in some parts of Australia
Australia’s chief medical officer has written to doctors urging them for help as Australians rush out to get tested for Covid-19, including those who don’t need it.
The letter says there has been “extreme pressure” on personal protective equipment stocks continues. Meanwhile, he wrote, “the situation regarding pathology test kits, reagents and swabs is deteriorating rapidly, with kits no longer being available in some regions of the country”. He told doctors:
Pathology collection centres have also experienced large backlogs in testing appointments in some parts of Australia, and emergency testing facilities have had to be established in some areas to ensure that urgent patients can get access to testing.
He implored doctors to stick to testing guidelines. That is, only testing those who meet both clinical and epidemiological criteria. You can read more about Murphy’s letter here.
Italian neighbours sing together in show of moral support during lockdown
From Naples to Tuscany, Italians have been singing from their balconies across the country, in an effort to boost morale during its nationwide lockdown that began this week, due to Covid-19.
Videos of Italian neighbours singing together have been appearing on social media after Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte announced the restrictions that shut down virtually all daily life.
Social media posts with messages from China have also appeared, expressing solidarity with Italians.
You can read The Guardian’s full story below:
The premier of Western Australia Mark McGowan is giving a press conference. Another three cases of the virus have been detected in Western Australia on Saturday, all travellers from overseas. That brings the state to a total of 17 cases.
McGowan is talking about the agreement reached between the states, territories and federal government for a national cabinet of Australia. McGowan said:
This means all of the leaders of each of the governments of Australia will form a group to meet regularly and to form important decisions in relation to coronavirus. This has never been done before in Australia. This is an Australian-first, since Federation. So this didn’t happen in wartime, this is the first time that we have done this as a nation.
I want to make sure that there is collaborative decision-making, that we are making decisions on behalf of the entire nation. The states are as one on this. The states need to work together. The boundaries are dropping away in relation to confronting this, and we are working together as Australians to confront this threat to our nation.
Secondly, a range of decisions were made on policy issues, and I just want to go over those again. Firstly, we are now advising all Australians not to travel overseas. That is very firm advice to all Australians, don’t travel overseas. Have your holidays at home. Only travel overseas if it is absolutely critical.
He added the states and territories would begin sharing medical supplies. McGowan said:
This is a very significant issue for Australia, and we want to work together. We have been through was together, we have been through depressions, we have been through all sorts of national upheavals. Australians can withstand this if we work together, if we co-operate, if we are reasonable to each other.
New Zealand to impose border control measures from Sunday
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern says while the country only has only seen six Covid-19 cases, the government was enforcing border control measures to contain it. At a press conference on Saturday Ardern told reporters:
As of midnight Sunday, every person entering New Zealand, including returning New Zealand citizens and residents, will be required to enter self-isolation for 14 days. Everybody.
The Pacific Islands are exempted from this measure. They are the only ones. Anyone from this country, though, will be required to automatically self isolate should they exhibit any Covid-19 symptoms upon arrival in New Zealand. All of these restrictions will be reviewed in 16 days’ time... this decision will mean New Zealand will have the widest ranging and toughest border restrictions of any country in the world.
We are also encouraging New Zealanders to avoid all non-essential travel overseas. As of midnight tonight, we’re issuing to all cruise ships not to come to New Zealand until at least 30 June 2020, that is for incoming cruise ships, at which time the directive will be reviewed.
Countries across Southeast Asia are stepping up travel restrictions for citizens from Europe and countries with high numbers of cases.
Cambodia has announced that it will refuse entry to citizens from Italy, Germany, Spain, France, and the United States, according to the Khmer Times. The ban, to be introduced on Tuesday, will last for 30 days. The country has so far recorded seven cases of the virus.
Vietnam will also stop issuing tourist visas to citizens from Europe’s Schengen area and Britain starting from Sunday, the state-run newspaper Hanoimoi reported. Tens of tourists are in quarantine in the country, following a recent cluster of cases linked to a London flight that arrived in Hanoi on 2 March. The country has so far recorded 47 cases.
Meanwhile, Thai officials have added the UK to the list of countries with ongoing local transmission, which means travellers may need to monitor their health for 14 days and report symptoms to the health authorities. This applies to anyone who has travelled from or transited through the UK in the 14 days prior to their arrival in Thailand.
The Philippines had earlier announced a travel ban for all foreign nationals coming from the more than 60 countries reporting local transmission of coronavirus. This includes the UK, according to the British government’s travel advice.
One Day International series between Australia and New Zealand is being called off.
The New Zealand government has tightened its border restrictions and included Australia on the list of countries from which those entering New Zealand would be subjected to a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period. This comes into effect on Sunday.
New Zealand Cricket [NZC] has announced in a statement that as a consequence, “we need to get our team back to New Zealand before the restriction is imposed, meaning it will not be able to participate in the two remaining Chappell-Hadlee fixtures”. The statement says:
Arrangements are at this moment being made to fly the bulk of the squad home this evening. This development also means the three-match T20I series scheduled for New Zealand cannot proceed as the mandatory self-isolation period would also apply to the Australian squad as soon as it crossed the border into New Zealand.
NZC believes both these series can be replayed in their entirety at a later and more appropriate date. NZC understands and supports the government’s position. This is a time of unprecedented risk and peril, and the personal health and well-being of our players is paramount.
After initially calling coronavirus a “hoax” and following widespread criticism that the US government failed to act quickly enough to test for and contain coronavirus, president Donald Trump has taken to Twitter, saying; “I want you to know that your Federal Government will unleash every authority, resource and tool at its disposal to safeguard the lives and health of our people”.
His Tweet was met with some scepticism.
Trump on Friday announced a national emergency and billions in funding to tackle the pandemic.
“It gives tremendous powers for things that we need,” Trump said in a White House Rose Garden press conference on Friday. “Tremendous power actually.”
The Australian home affairs minister Peter Dutton has just done an interview from his sickbed at the Royal Brisbane Hospital with Chris Smith from Sydney radio station 2gb.
Dutton, who on Friday confirmed he had tested positive for coronavirus, said he was feeling “much better this morning”.
“Fever has gone this morning, temperature is down, my throat was very mild to start with so probably still a bit sore but very mild in that sense. I’ve had asthma since I was a child so I guess they were a bit worried about that, but they think my lungs are clear so all pretty good at the moment,” he said.
Dutton, who said he woke with symptoms including a fever, sore throat and a slight shortness of breath on Friday morning, attended a cabinet meeting with senior government ministers including the prime minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday and before that was in the US where he met with Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the US president.
But he said that he’d spoken to Queensland Health authorities on Friday night who had begun contact tracing back to Wednesday morning and were not concerned about his earlier contacts.
His wife and children had not displayed symptoms but were self-isolating.
“Their advice to me is they’re concerned with people that I’ve had close contact with since the morning of the 11th. So beyond that, it’s not further back, there’s some speculation about my visit to the White House etcetera but all the medical advice says there’s no issue in relation to that period or even cabinet earlier in the week. That’s the very clear medical advice that I got from Queensland Health.”
Global cruise company suspends voyages
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings - which operates the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises - has just announced a voluntary suspension of all cruise voyages embarking between 13 March and 11 April.
The temporary suspension is aimed at containing the virus spread, with the company saying the measure was being taken “in an abundance of caution” and that it had not experienced any confirmed cases across its fleet.
Guests on voyages that are underway will end and guests will be disembarked as soon as possible and assisted with travel arrangements, the company said in a statement.
All guests on impacted voyages will receive a 125% refund of the fare paid in the form of a future cruise credit, which can be applied toward any future cruise through to 31 December, 2022. Alternatively travellers can ask instead for a 100% refund of the fare paid.
Saudi Arabia suspends all international flights to kingdom
Saudi Arabia has suspended all international flights for two weeks, starting on Sunday, to prevent the spread of coronavirus, state news agency SPA said on Saturday, citing an official source at interior ministry.
Reuters reports the period will be considered as an exceptional official holiday for citizens and residents who are unable to return due to the suspension of flights or if they face quarantine after their return to the Kingdom, SPA cited the official as saying.
Saudi Arabia has reported 86 coronavirus cases.
Australian government publishes updated Covid-19 fact sheet
On Saturday the federal department of health published a fact sheet for the general public titled ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) – what you need to know’.
Health workers and the public have been calling out for consistent and clear information about the virus. However, given the situation has been evolving rapidly, the advice too has changed over time. This is the thirteenth version of the public fact sheet.
The latest advise states that to protect those most at risk and slow the rate of community transmission:
- Non-essential organised gatherings should be kept to fewer than 500 people
- Non-essential meetings or conferences of health care professionals and emergency services should be limited, and
- Reconsider if you need to visit residential care facilities and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
These precautions are most important for people over 60, particularly if they have a chronic disease, the department said.
Trump vows to 'unleash every authority' in virus fight
Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to reassure Americans over the coronavirus, saying the government will “unleash every authority” to fight the outbreak.
It marks the end of a momentous day in the US, in which the president declared a national emergency and plans to dramatically increase the availability of testing kits.
Meanwhile, the defence correspondent from PBS’s Newshour programme, reported that the Pentagon was banning all domestic travel for anyone associated with the defence department.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has tested negative for the coronavirus, according to his former aid, senator Christopher Go.
Duterte, who was not showing symptoms of the disease, was tested on Thursday after a number of cabinet members announced that they had been in contact with a person confirmed to have the virus, and that they would isolate themselves. Duterte has also suspended all foreign trips.
The number of cases recorded in the Philippines has risen to 64, following a wave of new infections this week. The country reported its sixth death on Saturday morning.
Metro Manila, home to 12 million people, will placed under lockdown from tomorrow, with schools shut and mass gatherings banned. Domestic land and sea travels to and from Manila will also stop. There is particular concern about the disease spreading rapidly in the capital’s crowded housing settlements.
A tourist in the Philippines, Helena Peacock, told The Guardian she found out last night that the island she is on, Coron, is being locked down from tomorrow.
“All tourists have until then to leave but there is not enough flights or boats out,” she said.
“Many of us have been at the airport on standby, approximately 300 tourists and more arriving every minute. The UK embassy in Manila is being as helpful as they are able to be. People are scared and confused because there is no information coming out. I did hear that someone has fainted inside the terminal building as it’s hot and cramped.
“There are rumours of private planes but no one can tell you how much it will cost or when it would leave. Airlines were still flying people in to here this morning from other areas without telling them, they found out when they arrived.”
South Korea reports 107 new cases
South Korea has recorded 107 new coronavirus cases on Saturday compared with 110 a day earlier, taking the national tally to 8,086. In contrast, 204 patients were released from hospitals where they had been isolated for treatment.
It’s the second day in a row, the daily number of recovered people exceeded that of new confirmed cases since South Korea’s first patient was confirmed on 20 January.
It marks the continuing trend of a steady drop in the number of new cases, raising hopes that the outbreak may be slowing, just weeks after it became the biggest centre of infections outside China (now a title held by Italy).
Of the latest 107 cases, 62 were from the hard-hit southeastern city of Daegu where the Christian church at the centre of the epidemic is located, while 15 and 13 were in Gyeonggi and Seoul, respectively.
There has been debate about whether schools in Australia should close in light of the ban on gatherings of more than 500 people commencing from Monday. Major events have been cancelled throughout Australia.
But except for schools and universities where there have been cases of the virus, the ban will not apply to educational institutions.
Earlier on Saturday chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy said wider school closures were “not on the horizon”. He said:
They are certainly something that could be considered if there’s a community outbreak. The interesting aspect about schools is that children don’t seem to get much in the way of infection and if they do, they get very mild infection. At this stage we don’t feel that school closures are warranted.
NSW education department secretary Mark Scott told ABC news that even in large schools it was rare to have 500 people in one place at the same time. Scott said:
That’s part of the social distancing advice we’re going to be providing. So if you have a big school that runs big school assemblies, now is not the time to be doing that.
Australian Primary Principals Association president Malcolm Elliott said schools were on “tenterhooks”.
We are all unsure about what the spread of the virus will be when it might strike particularly schools or how widespread this might become and how quickly. It is a very difficult thing to plan for in any really meaningful way.
Chile bans public gatherings over 500 people
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has announced a ban on public events with more than 500 people, Reuters reports, as the government tries to curtail the spread of coronavirus.
Pinera also said people arriving in Chile from countries considered high-risk for the virus, including China, Italy and Spain, would have to quarantine for 14 days.
Chile has confirmed 43 cases of the coronavirus.
The ban on large public events, which will begin on Monday, could have implications for upcoming planned protests. Demonstrations began late last year over the high cost of living and inequality, in some cases attracting tens of thousands of people.
China daily figures again show very small rises
We are just getting the latests Chinese figures, which show 11 new cases of Covid-19 and 13 deaths. Four of the new cases were in Wuhan – the centre of the outbreak – as were 10 of the deaths. Of the total 80,824 confirmed cases in China, 65,541 have recovered.
On Friday the Chinese Health Commission reported just 8 deaths - the lowest since they began giving daily briefings on 25 January.
MSC Magnifica cruise ship passengers barred from disembarking in Hobart
Tasmania Ports has announced about 400 passengers on the MSC Magnifica are being kept on board after arriving in Hobart.
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said the government had acted on the advice of Australian Border Control, and “... also the advice of our own health experts and the director of public health.”
The ABC has more on the cruise ship here.
Africa records cases in 19 countries
Covid-19 has now taken a foothold in 19 countries in Africa, a continent authorities are particularly worried about due to a lack of health services.
Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Guinea and Mauritania all confirmed their first cases of the coronavirus on Friday.
Most of Africa’s reported cases were foreigners or people who had travelled abroad.
Cases were previously 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 and Ethiopia.
The numbers of cases in most of the countries are still in single figures.
Mauritania’s health ministry says its first coronavirus patient is a European man, whose nationality was not specified, had returned to Nouakchott on 9 March and had since been in quarantine.
Senegal confirmed 11 new cases, raising the total in that West African nation to 21. Its health ministry said 16 had been infected by the same man who had returned from Italy.
Kenya’s health minister, Mutahi Kagwe, said the country’s first case, a 27-year-old Kenyan, was diagnosed on Thursday after travelling home via London on 5 March.
Meanwhile in the US:
According to the US Centers for Disease Control there have now been 49 deaths throughout the country, with more than 2,200 total cases.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the state had more cases than any other in the US. The cluster of cases in New York has now surpassed Washington. Cuomo said;
The number one thing we have to do in this state to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus is to increase testing, and the federal government has created a testing bottleneck nationwide with their slow response in lifting restrictions for states to authorise testing. We’re dealing with the virus, but we’re also dealing with the fear and anxiety New Yorkers are facing, and we’re taking new actions every day as this situation evolves to address both.
Following reports that vulnerable people including the elderly are struggling to buy essential items such as toilet paper as Australians rush to panic buy, supermarket giant Woolworths has announced a deal with Meals on Wheels in New South Wales to help deliver toilet paper directly to the elderly in the community.
In a statement Woolworths said the first delivery of toilet paper was dropped off at the Meals on Wheels Central Coast branch in Tuggerah with more deliveries across NSW to follow in the next week.
Woolworths managing director Claire Peters said:
Due to the unprecedented demand on certain products in our stores, we’ve heard that many elderly and vulnerable people in the community are missing out on items they may need when they shop. While we’ll continue to do our very best to continue restocking our stores, we encourage all Australians to be mindful of those in your community at this time who might need help and ensure that we continue to support each other.
Three more coronavirus cases have been confirmed in South Australia, the premier Steven Marshall said on Saturday. The people infected there including a student from Sacred Heart College.
This means Australia has now reached 200 cases.
Earlier on Saturday the shadow health minister Chris Bowen responded to the news that home affairs minister Peter Dutton had tested positive with the virus by saying the Australian government had been inconsistent in its response. He criticised Morrison for not getting tested for the virus or self-isolating following Dutton’s diagnosis.
But chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said Morrison and other ministers had not been in close contact with Dutton and did not need to undergo testing. Murphy said:
No member of cabinet was in contact with minister Dutton within 24 hours of him becoming symptomatic, nor was I in fact in contact with him. So the prime minister was very, very clear to me that the cabinet and all the public officials follow the exact same public health rules as everybody else in the Australian community. If there had been a requirement for quarantine, he was insistent that government and cabinet follow those rules, so we just follow the normal public health advice, no-one had been in contact with the minister in that period
Meanwhile in the US, president Donald Trump said the UK could be added to the list of European countries included in the US travel ban. PA Media reports:
The US president announced a state of emergency on Friday to combat the coronavirus pandemic, freeing up billions of dollars in funding and promising a screening website and drive-through tests.
He told reporters during a White House press conference afterwards that the UK exemption had been made after being “recommended to me by a group of professionals” but he said the UK’s rising number of cases could result in a rethink of that decision.
On Wednesday night, Trump announced that the US would temporarily suspend most travel from the European Union.
The restrictions, which began on Friday and are set to last 30 days, do not currently apply to US citizens or to travellers from the UK or the Republic of Ireland.
The restrictions apply to most foreign nationals who have been in the 26 countries of the Schengen area during the 14 days before their planned arrival in the US.
Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund announced by WHO
The World Health Organization [WHO] has announced a Covid-19 ‘Solidarity Response Fund’, which it describes as a first-of-its-kind fund to raise money from a range of donors. The money will be used to help WHO and its and partners assist countries to respond to the pandemic.
WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the fund marked “a critical point in the global response” to the virus. He said; “A lot of people and institutions have been saying they want to contribute to the fight against the novel coronavirus. Now they can”.
He has declared Europe as the epicentre of the virus.
“More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic,” he said.
The latest WHO figures show more than 132,500 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in 123 countries. Ghebreyesus said;
We have shipped supplies of personal protective equipment to 56 countries, we’re shipping to a further 28 countries, and we’ve sent almost 1.5 million diagnostic tests to 120 countries. Our message to countries continues to be: you must take a comprehensive approach.
Australia's chief medical officer says an infection could take some months to go right through the community
As Australia prepares to ban mass gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday, the chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy said the government has modelling that says an infection could take some months to go right through the community “with a flattened curve”. He said:
But it depends how it develops. It might develop in focal parts of the country where we might be able to control it, if it develops in a number of parts it could last for quite a number of weeks. At the moment we are just focusing on containing and flattening it, and we will be reviewing our public health measures every day.
One of the most important areas of preparation is to make sure we have sufficient critical care capacity. If we get a number of people who have severe disease and there is a lot of planning in that space. I do reiterate that if you did have a large outbreak in this country, probably 80% of people would be treated at home because they are so mild. But those who might need hospital, we have plans to stop elective surgery, expand open beds, find extra workforce, all of those plans are well advanced.
I think we have a very well-prepared health system, there is clearly more preparation that is ongoing and we have clearly got to make sure in this worldwide situation that we can maximise the resources available in Australia such as those testing equipment.
If we get a large outbreak and we can flatten the curve, it could go well into the middle of the year before it peaks. But there are some countries ... which seems to have peaked quite early and controlled the outbreak. One of the things we know about outbreaks and epidemics as they are very hard to predict.
Welcome to our continuing coverage of the coronavirus outbreak
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m the Guardian’s Melbourne bureau chief Melissa Davey, and I’ll be keeping you up to date on all the latest developments. You can contact me at email@example.com or on Twitter.
Here’s a summary of the key points so far on the Covid-19 outbreak.
- The global death toll reached 5,359, while 142,557 cases have been confirmed. In addition, 70,176 people have recovered, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. The institution draws from official figures, so the true toll could be higher.
- The US president declared a national emergency. Donald Trump, who started out by dismissing coronavirus as a hoax, took the major step of designating it a national emergency. That allowed him to sweep aside a host of rules and regulations in order to try to stop its spread. But he repeatedly refused to accept any responsibility for his own administration’s response to the outbreak.
- Europe is now the centre of the pandemic, the WHO said. Its director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the continent has more cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined apart from China.
- The UK is set to ban mass gatherings – a significant U-turn by Downing Street. A Whitehall source briefed reporters that ministers are working on a plan to stop “various types of public event, including mass gatherings, beginning next week”. The government has thus deemed such measures unnecessary.
- The UK could be added to the US’ travel ban, Trump said. Responding to news of a significant uptick in the number of UK cases, Trump indicated he was thinking of extended his ban to a country he has thus far protected, while taking others off the list.
- UK sporting events and elections were postponed. Almost all professional football in Britain, including a significant portion of the grassroots game, was suspended. Rugby fixtures were put off and the London marathon was postponed. In golf, the Masters, which is played in the US, was also cancelled. Local and mayoral elections due to take place in the UK later this year were put back to 2021.
- Spain declared a state of emergency, while a host of other countries announced strict new measures. Among them were France, Canada and Cyprus, as well as Bosnia, Switzerland and a string of others.
- Ivanka Trump working from home after contact with Australian government minister who has the virus. Donald Trump’s daughter, who serves in the White House, will not self-quarantine despite coming into close contact with the Australian home affairs minister, Peter Dutton.
- In Australia the Victorian government will soon reveal more details about event cancellations following the cancellation of the Grand Prix on Friday.