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Coronavirus updates: China to ease Hubei curbs, UK in lockdown

Countries worldwide urge people to ‘stay at home’ as global death toll reaches 16,500 and confirmed cases top 380,000.

China has said it will relax many restrictions on travel to and from Hubei, the province where the coronavirus outbreak began, on Wednesday, as the United Kingdom announced strict controls on movement to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The UK move came after the country reportred 52 more deaths and followed the imposition of strict lockdowns in France, Spain and Italy, as Europe reels from a pandemic that the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned is accelerating. In Africa, Senegal, South African and the Ivory Coast were among the countries to also announce sweeping movement restrictions.

More than 16,500 people have died from COVID-19 about the world, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 102,000 of the 382,000 people who have been diagnosed with the disease have recovered.

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

Here are the latest updates:

Tuesday, March 24

10:40 GMT – Nearly half of infected people on cruise ship asymptomatic at time of testing

A US government report said 46.5 percent of the 712 people who tested positive for SARS-Cov-2 on board the Diamond Princess in February were asymptomatic at the time of testing.

The cruise ship accounted for the largest cluster of COVID-19 cases outside mainland China at the time, and the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested the high proportion of asymptomatic infections could partially explain the high attack rate on board cruise ships.

The CDC also said traces of the new coronavirus was found in the cabins of infected passengers 17 days after the rooms were vacated, suggesting the virus, known as SARS-Cov-2, can last longer on some surfaces than previously thought. However, the CDC said it is not clear if transmission occurred from the contaminated surfaces and called for more studies.

10:30 GMT – Malaysia confirms 106 new coronavirus cases

Malaysia’s health ministry has confirmed 106 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total to 1,624, with 15 deaths.

It said 43 of the new cases were linked to a mass religious gathering, which has already been connected to more than 60% of the total infections in the country, which has the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia.

10:10 GMT – Cambodia accused of political clampdown amid outbreak

Cambodia has been accused of arresting and detaining individuals who expressed concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a statement released on Tuesday, said at least 17 people have been arrested since January for sharing information about the deadly disease, which has killed more than 16,500 people worldwide. It urged the government to immediately stop its “clampdown”.

Read more here.

10:00 GMT – Indonesia records biggest daily jump in cases

Indonesia has announced 107 new coronavirus cases, its biggest daily increase to date, bringing the total number of infections to 686, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto.

Meanwhile, seven more people had died of the disease, raising the death toll to 55. Thirty people have so far recovered from the virus.

Turkish cologne demand soars as sanitiser shelves stripped bare


09:45 – Laos records first two coronavirus cases

Laos has recorded its first two cases of the coronavirus, Thai media has reported. The two cases include a 28-year-old male hotel worker and a 36-year-old female tour guide, both in the capital Vientiane, Thai state-owned media MCOT.

The two patients, who work with foreign visitors and travelled abroad, are being treated at a hospital.

09:45 GMT – France has list of companies that could get state support

The French government has drawn up a list of companies that may need state support ranging from a capital injection to outright nationalisation, France’s finance minister said.

Bruno Le Maire told France Info radio that he could not give the names of the companies on the list, but that they knew they could count on the support of the government.

“Nationalisation is obviously a last resort, but it is something that we do not exclude,” Le Maire said, comparing the current economic crisis to the Great Depression of 1929.

09:40 GMT – Cameroon saxophone player Manu Dibango dies from coronavirus

Cameroon-born singer and saxophone player Manu Dibango has died from a coronavirus infection, according to a statement on his official Facebook page.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove, who passed away on 24th of March 2020, at 86 years old, further to covid 19,” it said.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 29, 2018 Cameroon jazz saxophonist Manu Dibango performs during a concert at the Ivory Hotel in Abidjan. - Veteran Cameroon jazz star Dibango dies after contra
Manu Dibango performing during a concert at the Ivory Hotel in Abidjan [File: Sia KAMBOU/AFP]

09:30 GMT – International Olympic Committee to deliver verdict on games postponement ‘within days’

A final decision on whether to postpone this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games will be taken in the coming days, two sources within the Olympic movement were reported as saying by the Reuters news agency.

The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo Games organisers are under mounting pressure to postpone the Games due to the coronavirus outbreak. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and IOC President Thomas Bach will hold a telephone conference at 1100 GMT.

09:20 GMT – China says most of its imported cases involve Chinese nationals

China’s foreign ministry has said that most of the so-called imported cases of the coronavirus reported in the country so far involve Chinese nationals who have traveled to China from overseas.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters during a daily briefing that 380 of the 427 imported coronavirus cases involve Chinese nationals, without elaborating further.

09:15 GMT – UK could introduce stronger measures for violating gov’t restrictions

Britain could introduce stronger measures than 30 pound fixed penalty fines for people who flout new restrictions announced on Monday to slow the spread of coronavirus, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said.

“The police have a range of enforcement tools, and of course fixed-penalty notices and fines are just one of them. If people do persist in behaving in an anti-social way, there are stronger measures that we have,” he told ITV on Tuesday.

“The legislation will be in place in order to ensure that we have appropriate penalties and appropriate punishment for those people who do not adhere to the clear advice that the government has given and that the police are ready to enforce.”

Al Jazeera English


The UK government has ordered people to stay at home after the death toll from the coronavirus reached more than 300 in the country.

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09:10 GMT –  China still at risk of sporadic infection: Health official  

China is still at risk of sporadic infection, a health official with China’s national health commission said, adding that the country cannot afford to shut down its defences yet.

“Prevention and control work could still not be relaxed, Mi Feng, spokesman with the National Health Commission, said at a press briefing.

09:00 GMT – Half of Iran’s gov’t workers staying at home: President Rouhani

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said about half of all government employees were staying at home as part of measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak, state TV reported.

Iran is one of the hardest hit countries outside China, with more than 23,000 confirmed infections and more than 1,800 dead, according to the latest figures issued on Monday.

Another measure to contain the outbreak, the temporary release of prisoners, will be extended until the end of the current Iranian month of Farvardin, about April 18, he said.

08:50 – Thai declares state of emergency, approves new stimulus package

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has announced a state of emergency from Thursday to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The move will give the government enforcement powers not normally available to it. They include giving extra authority to officials, the setting up of checkpoints and restrictions on people’s movement.

The cabinet separately approved additional stimulus measures worth 107 billion baht ($3.25 billion) in a bid to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy.

The measures include cash handouts, soft loans, emergency loans, tax breaks, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak told reporters after a cabinet meeting. Authorities have so far reported 827 coronavirus cases and 4 deaths.

08:45 GMT – Bahraini government to execute 4.3 billion dinars stimulus

Bahrain’s finance minister Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa has announced that his country will soon deliver a stimulus package worth 4.3 billion dinars ($11.41 billion), state TV reported.

08:30 GMT – Taiwan coronavirus cases surpass 200 mark

Taiwan has reported 20 additional coronavirus cases, taking its tally to 215 cases, the government said in a statement.

The new cases involve arrivals from overseas, including Britain, Ireland, Turkey and Indonesia.

08:10 GMT – German cases up by 4,764, total hits 27,436

The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said 4,764 new cases of the coronavirus have been detecting in Germany, raising the total number of infections to 27,436.

It added that the number of fatalities rose to 114 from 86 the previous day.

Medical employees wait to carry out tests at a coronavirus test center for public service employees, during a media presentation in Munich, Germany, Monday, March 23, 2020. For most people, the new co
Germany is the fifth worst hit country in the world with more than 27,000 confirmed cases [Matthias Schrader/AP]

08:00 GMT – China’s Hubei province to remove travel ban

Many travel restrictions in and out of China’s Hubei province will be remove starting on Wednesday, the local health commission has announced, with the exception of Wuhan, the provincial capital and epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

Restrictions for leaving Wuhan will be eased on April 8 and people will be able to travel through a health code, according to the commission. The city of some 11 million people has been under lockdown since January 23.

Coronavirus lockdown: South Africa orders three-week restrictions

07:45 GMT – Thailand confirms 106 new cases, three deaths

Thailand has reported 106 new coronavirus cases and three more deaths, a health official said. The country now has 827 cases and 4 deaths since the outbreak began.

Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a Public Health Ministry spokesman, said all three fatalities were patients who had other health complications.

These include  a 70-year-old man who had tuberculosis, a 45-year-old man who had diabetes and a 79-year-old man who had health problems, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a Public Health Ministry spokesman, said.

Since the start of the outbreak, 57 patients have recovered and gone home, while 766 are still being treated in hospitals.

07:30 GMT – Macau announces new restrictions on HK, China visitors

Visitors from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan who have travelled overseas in the past 14 days will be banned from entering Macau, the territory’s leader said.

Ho Iat Seng said those who haven’t been abroad will nevertheless be quarantined for 14 days. Visitors from mainland China account for more than 90 percent of visitors to the former Portuguese colony, now the world’s biggest gambling hub.

So far, authorities there have detected 25 confirmed coronavirus cases.



How long will it take to develop a vaccine for ? @mehdirhasan asks the director general of the International Vaccine Institute. Watch the full interview: https://youtu.be/yswfzyXsgtw 

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07:20 GMT – Philippines reports 39 new cases

The Philippine health ministry confirmed 39 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the country’s total number of infections to 501.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters that 33 people have so far died from the virus while 19 people have recovered.

Separately, the economic planning agency raised concern about the state of the economy, saying there was a possibility it could contract as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

07:15 GMT – South Korea confirms 76 new cases, bringing total to 9,037

South Korea has reported 76 new cases of the coronavirus, bring the total number of infections to 9,037, Yonhap news agency reported health authorities as saying.

Residents of Bukgajwa1dong, wearing protective gears disinfect as a precaution against the new coronavirus at a park in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, March 23, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus
Authorities in South Korea have detected more than 9,000 cases of the novel coronavirus [Lee Jin-man/AP]

07:00 GMT – Olympics to depend on progress made in battle against coronavirus

Whether the Olympics take place or not depends in large part on the international community’s ability to curb the spread of the coronavirus, a Japanese minister in charge of overseeing the games said.

“I believe the Tokyo Games cannot move toward the ‘complete form’ that the prime minister [Shinzo Abe] has mentioned as long as countries of the world have not put an end to the coronavirus,” Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto told reporters.

“So, it’s first and foremost for us to join forces and respond firmly for putting an end to the coronavirus,” she said.

Abe is expected to hold a telephone conference with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach to discuss the possibility of postponing the games by a year.

06:30 GMT – South Korea registers new cases from overseas

South Korea says 19 of 1,444 passengers who arrived from Europe on Sunday were found to have the coronavirus, the first cases detected after authorities began testing all people coming from the continent.

South Korean Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho also said that 101 of some 1,200 passengers who arrived from Europe on Monday have exhibited fever or respiratory symptoms.

While the country’s infections have been slowing, there’s concern about the reintroduction of COVID-19 amid broadening outbreaks in the West.

South Korea says it will fully fund the treatment for virus carriers regardless of their nationality. Even if they test negative, South Korean nationals arriving from Europe or foreigners who enter the country from Europe on long-term stay visas are required to quarantine themselves at home for two weeks.

UN chief calls for global ceasefire to help fight COVID-19

06:15 GMT – Australia coronavirus deaths rise to eight

A woman who was infected with the new coronavirus on a cruise ship has become Australia’s eighth COVID-19 death.

Health authorities say the woman, in her 70s, died in a Sydney hospital on Tuesday.

She was one of the initial three cases confirmed aboard the Ruby Princess and was taken to a hospital on Thursday.

So far, 133 passengers from the Ruby Princess have tested positive since the ship docked in Sydney following a 11-day New Zealand cruise. The 2,700 passengers had been cleared to go home without self-isolating because the cruise was regarded as low risk.

06:00 GMT – Beijing tightens overseas arrivals measures

All individuals arriving in China’s capital from overseas must take a COVID-19 test in addition to being quarantined starting Wednesday, the Beijing municipal government announced.

In a notice published online, Beijing authorities said those who have entered the city within the last 14 days also will undergo mandatory testing.

The heightened measures – which apply regardless of one’s final destination – follow a previous order that all overseas arrivals quarantine themselves at designated hotels at their own expense unless they live alone. The notice did not say whether this exemption still stands.

“Currently, the imported risk from the epidemic’s rapid spread overseas continues to rise,” said the Beijing notice.

How to overcome obstacles to widespread coronavirus testing?

03:50 GMT – New Zealand prepares for Wednesday lockdown

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged New Zealanders on Tuesday to reduce contact with others to a bare minimum in preparation for a one-month lockdown from midnight on Wednesday.

Ardern’s government wants to move fast to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

“Simplest thing is to stay at home … that’s how we will save lives,” Ardern told a news conference in Parliament.

Parliament will sit on Wednesday to impose the state of emergency and lockdown, she said.

03:20 GMT – Thailand reports two more deaths

Thailand has reported two more deaths from coronavirus, with total confirmed cases rising to 827.

Matthew Tostevin


Thailand also reporting another two deaths – making 4 in total now https://twitter.com/TostevinM/status/1242287990203805697 

Matthew Tostevin


Breaking: Thailand records 106 new #coronavirus cases, bringing total to 827

See Matthew Tostevin’s other Tweets

03:10 GMT – Beijing tightens quarantine rules for arrivals from overseas

The Chinese capital is stepping up measures to deal with cases of coronavirus brought in by people returning from overseas.

All arrivals into Beijing will now have to take a test for COVID-19 as well as complete 14 days of centralised quarantine.

03:00 GMT – Philippines confirms 39 new cases

The Philippine health ministry has confirmed 39 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the country’s total to 501.

The number of patients who have died from the virus is 33, while 19 have recovered, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters.

02:30 GMT – Australia’s NSW reports sharp jump in cases

New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, recorded its highest daily rise in coronavirus cases on Tuesday and officials are warning of harsher penalties for anybody violating self-isolation orders.

NSW identified 149 new coronavirus cases overnight, bringing the state total to 818, and the national toll to 1,886 cases. Seven people have died from the disease.

Australia Sydney
Birds take over the streets in Sydney as Australia’s biggest city closes down [Loren Elliott/Reuters]

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the pandemic was at a “critical stage” and enforcement crucial.

“We are ramping up our compliance,” she told reporters in Sydney. “There are harsh penalties, and we’ll enforce that. We have to take this seriously.”

02:10 GMT – Thailand reports second death, cabinet to meet

Thailand’s cabinet is due to meet to discuss its coronavirus response after a second person died from COVID-19.

The country has 721 infections.

A press conference will be held at 10am (03:00 GMT), and the government will consider more measures to address the outbreak later on Tuesday.

02:05 GMT – China says only imported cases, but questions asked over reporting criteria

Caixin Global, a financial news agency in China, continues to raise questions about the way in which China is counting its coronavirus cases.

It spoke to an official in Wuhan, where the disease first originated, who says those who have the virus but have no symptoms are left out of the figures.

Caixin Global


As of Sunday, Hubei province said it had zero new “confirmed cases” for four days. However, a member of a disease prevention team said Wuhan continues to find cases every day, but they’re left out of the public figures as the patients show no symptoms https://www.caixinglobal.com/2020-03-23/despite-official-figures-wuhan-continues-to-find-new-asymptomatic-covid-19-cases-daily-101532880.html?cxg=web&Sfrom=twitter 

Despite Official Figures, Wuhan Continues to Find New Asymptomatic Covid-19 Cases Daily

Though the city is finding ‘more than a dozen’ new cases daily, they’re left off the official tally as the patients show no symptoms


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01:55 GMT – South Korea cases continue downward trend

More encouraging signs from South Korea.

It has just reported 76 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the 13th day in a row that is has posted new infections of 100 or less.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) says total infections rose to 9,037. Two more people were confirmed dead, bringing the death toll to 120.

01:40 GMT – Myanmar reports first confirmed cases of coronavirus

Myanmar has reported its first confirmed cases of coronavirus.

The health ministry said late on Monday that a 36-year-old travelling from the United States and 26-year-old returning from Britain, both Myanmar nationals, had tested positive.

“Investigation is ongoing on history of people who have been in contact with these two patients,” it said in a statement.

The Southeast Asian nation shares a long and porous border with China.

People in Yangon rushed to stock up on essentials as Myanmar announced its first two confirmed cases of coronavirus [Stringer/Reuters]

01:35 GMT – Cuba bans all citizens from leaving

Cuba is the latest country to impose a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus – banning Cubans from leaving, closing schools and suspending inter-regional public transport.

Last Friday, foreign tourists were barred from entering the country.

Cuba has so far confirmed 40 cases

01:30 GMT – US says Tokyo Olympics should be postponed

More pressure on Japan to postpone the Summer Olympics with the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee the latest to say the 2020 game should be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The committee says it surveyed some 4,000 of its athletes over the weekend and 65 percent of those who responded indicated their training had been severely affected or halted entirely due to virus-related restrictions.

“It’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising,” USOPC board chair Susanne Lyons and CEO Sarah Hirshland said in a statement.

00:15 GMT – New Zealand reports 40 new cases

New Zealand on Tuesday confirmed 40 new cases of coronavirus, taking the number of confirmed and possible cases in the country to 155.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said six people were in hospital and in stable condition. Four cases are being seen as community transmission, he said.

00:00 GMT – Astronauts in quarantine before ISS mission

Two Russian cosmonauts and a US astronaut are spending their final weeks on Earth in quarantine before their April 9 mission to the International Space Station.

The Expedition 63 crew will launch from Kazakhstan without the usual ceremonies to mark the occasion and will spend six months at the ISS.

“We are ready to go, we are healthy, we’ve been tested very well with the medical teams,” US astronaut Chris Cassidy said on Monday in a video from quarantine.

For updates from yesterday (March 23), click here.


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