Coronavirus latest: Fatalities in Spain hit a new daily high

  • COVID-19 deaths in the US rose past 2,000 with cases topping 120,000
  • US President Donald Trump issued a “strong travel advisory” for hard-hit New York and surrounding states
  • Spain has reported 838 new deaths — a record over 24 hours — taking the overall death toll to 6,528
  • Mexico has urged everyone in the country to stay home for a month in a bid to slow the spread of the virus

Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

11:05 India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, publicly apologized on Sunday for a three-week nation lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, but said he had “no choice.”

“I apologize for taking these harsh steps that have caused difficulties in your lives, especially the poor people,” Modi said in his monthly radio broadcast. “I know some of you will be angry with me. But these tough measures were needed to win this battle.”

The lockdown, which has been in place since Wednesday, prohibits Indians from going out except to conduct essential trips, such as buying food or medicine. The measures are a strain on the nation’s 1.3 billion inhabitants and have put millions of daily laborers out of work with no savings to buy food.

There have been 987 confirmed virus cases in India so far. Health officials fear that dense populations and lack of sanitary conditions will inevitably lead to transmission, which could, in turn, overwhelm the already strained health care system.

11:00 Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has announced that the government is to tighten the existing lockdown measures even further. As of Monday, “All workers in non-essential economic activities must stay at home for two weeks,” he said in a press conference. An emergency cabinet meeting later in the day will hash out the details.

He also called on the European Union to take “bold and effective measures” and to act as one. “In the EU’s most critical moment since it was founded, we must row all together,” he said. Spain and Italy have recently butted heads with Germany and other northern and central European countries over the question of so-called coronabonds, which would see the bloc as a whole take on debt to aid the hardest-hit countries.

Read more: Coronavirus shakes foundations of the European Union

10:35 About an hour ago, Spain announced a new daily high for deaths from COVID-19. The health ministry said 838 people had died in the previous 24 hours, taking the overall death toll to 6,528. A sweep of local media has revealed a bit more about the health emergency engulfing the country.

As of the latest statistics available Friday, some 9,444 health workers had contracted coronavirus, representing 14% of total cases, Spanish daily El Pais reported. It is double the amount in Italy. Workers have complained about lacking necessary protective gear such as masks. Many are afraid of infecting their families and those whom they live with.

Pharmacies, which are still open and dispensing medicine, are also complaining about material shortfalls. “There are no masks, no gloves, no disinfectants, no alcohol, no thermometers,” Vicente J. Baixauli, the vice president of a national pharmacy agency, told El Pais.

Spanish Finance Minister Maria Jesus Montero said the government is facing the same material shortfalls as any other country because demand simply outstrips production, La Vanguardia reported.

Madrid government officials are preparing temporary morgues to alleviate already saturated funeral homes, reported La Vanguardia. More than 3,082 — or 47% — of Spain’s 6,528 deaths have been in the capital.

Read more: German churches overcoming coronavirus isolation

10:25 The German army will withdraw some of its soldiers from Iraq as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads in Middle Eastern countries.

Soldiers who are not essential for ongoing missions on the ground will return to Germany, Bundeswehr commanders confirmed on Sunday. Some troops already landed in Germany on Sunday morning, according to Germany’s DPA news agency.

German soldiers are present in Iraq as part of the US-led international coalition to fight the so-called Islamic State.

Iraq has 506 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 42 deaths.

  • A row of men wearing masks line up with their heads bowed while a man in blue scrubs, mask and headdress looks down to a body wrapped in a shroud.

    Coronavirus in the Middle East: Lock down or play down?

    Iran: Bearing the brunt

    With a high number of deaths and cases, Iran has been a regional epicenter of the outbreak. Several top officials have been infected and there are concerns the number of cases are higher than reported. The government has canceled Friday prayers but health workers have complained they are under-equipped. Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund for emergency funding.

  • The imposing black square building of the Kaaba sits in the center of the Grand Mosque in Mecca while a line of seemingly tiny men in green sanitation uniforms clean the usually busy floor of white tiles

    Coronavirus in the Middle East: Lock down or play down?

    Saudi Arabia: strict measures

    Saudi authorities banned international religious pilgrims early on, leaving the Grand Mosque’s Kaaba in Mecca virtually empty. Other measures have involved sanitizing streets and mosques, closing schools and universities, an extensive travel ban and fines of up to 500,000 riyals (€120,000/$133,000) for people hiding health details. It has also locked down the Shiite-minority area of Qatif.

  • Hundreds of people stand close together in front of a big stone building, some of them wearing masks

    Coronavirus in the Middle East: Lock down or play down?

    Egypt: Travel restrictions

    In Cairo, hundreds of Egyptians tried to get certificates showing they have a clean bill of health after Saudi Arabia announced new travel regulations. Although Egypt has only detected a low number of cases, more than 100 tourists returning from the country tested positive for the virus. Officials have limited sermons to 15 minutes and cancelled large public gatherings.

  • A man wearing a Kippah and medical mask leans in to a crack in a large stone wall

    Coronavirus in the Middle East: Lock down or play down?

    Israel, West Bank: Shielding themselves from the world

    Gatherings of less than 100 are still allowed, leaving visits to the Wailing Wall open. But Israeli authorities have virtually halted air traffic in and out of its territory and tourists are required to self quarantine. The city of Bethlehem has declared a state of emergency, emptying streets usually teeming ahead of Easter. Israeli researchers have said they are close to finding a COVID-19 cure.

  • A hall for testing is lined with hundreds of well spaced apart seats. Hundreds in masks sit and wait.

    Coronavirus in the Middle East: Lock down or play down?

    Kuwait: Virtual lockdown

    As Kuwaitis kept their distance at this makeshift testing center, the country entered a virtual lockdown, with the entire workforce given a two-week holiday from March 12. All commercial flights have been suspended from Friday on, schools have been closed and gatherings at restaurants, malls and commercial centers have been banned.

  • Inside a makeshift wooden frame lined with plastic, a young man sprays down another with a small spray bottle.

    Coronavirus in the Middle East: Lock down or play down?

    Iraq: Coronavirus fails to dampen protests

    Iraq’s protest movement has set up its own makeshift disinfection stations to counter the spread of COVID-19. Although Iraq is highly prone to the outbreak due to its proximity and close relations with Iran, protesters have been defiant, saying the government is the virus. Elsewhere authorities have closed major public spaces and religious institutions have cancelled gatherings.

    Author: Tom Allinson

10:10 Iran’s death count has risen to 2,640 on Sunday, with the number of confirmed cases surpassing 38,000.

“In the past 24 hours we had 123 deaths and 2,901 people have been infected, bringing the total number of infected people to 38,309, Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to Iran’s health minister, wrote on Twitter.

He also confirmed that over 12,000 people in Iran have recovered from COVID-19.

Iran’s Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told state TV that “some 3,467 of those infected are in critical condition.”

10:00 Here’s a summary of the main developments over the past 12 hours:

Europe: French Politician Patrick Devedjian has become the first European politician to die from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the overall death toll in Europe has continued to rise. Italy had reported just over 10,023 deaths as of Sunday morning, while in Spain the total stood at 6,528. The two countries — the hard-hit in Europe — have instituted harsh lockdown measures. Spanish officials said the number of infection cases had jumped to 78,797 on Sunday from 72,248 the previous day.

Germany: Infections in Germany are currently doubling at a rate of three to five days, with a nationwide total of 57,695. There have been 433 deaths from COVID-19. Meanwhile, a potential successor to Angela Merkel, state premier Armin Laschet, has said the country should start thinking about an “exit strategy” on restrictive measures, something Merkel has said the country will not do until mid-April at the earliest.

Asia: South Korea has said that all overseas arrivals will be required to undergo a two-week quarantine starting April 1. The country has been hailed for “flattening the curve” through vigilant testing and social distancing, but it fears new importation of the diseases from returning travelers. On Sunday, the country announced 105 new coronavirus cases bringing the country’s total to 9,583.

Japanese media reported that the Olympic Games originally scheduled from this summer in Tokyo would most likely now take place in July of next year.

China reported 45 new cases of the virus on its mainland on Sunday, all but one of which involved travelers entering from outside the country.

Oceana: New Zealand has reported its first death from COVID-19, a 75-year-old woman. The country, which has 514 confirmed cases of infection so far, is in a four-week lockdown.

Australia also announced it would lower the number of people allowed to gather publicly from 10 to two.

Americas: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is challenging President Nicolas Maduro, called for the country to institute a government of national emergency to fight the health crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak, but said Maduro could not be part of it. So far, there have only been 119 cases of the coronavirus with two deaths, but the country’s health care system has been decimated by political and economic instability.

United States: President Donald Trump backtracked from yesterday’s controversial statement calling for a quarantine of the New York metropolitan area and instead issued a “strong travel advisory.” New York Mayor Andrew Cuomo also announced the democratic primary scheduled for April would be pushed back to June. New York City has recorded a total of 30,765 infection cases, with 672 deaths. The US nationwide infection total stands at 124,686 with 2,191 deaths.

09:40 Spain’s coronavirus death toll rose by 838 overnight to 6,528 the health ministry said on Sunday, marking the highest daily rise in fatalities.

The total number of those infected rose to 78,797 from 72,248 on Saturday.

Along with Italy, Spain is one of the nations with the greatest number of infections and deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. 

09:00 More than 100,000 jobs could be lost from Germany’s automotive sector due to the coronavirus pandemic, a leading industry expert has warned.

Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, who heads the Centre of Automotive Research at the
University of Duisburg-Essen, sees demand for vehicles slumping by 15% this year.

Writing in a paper seen by the news agency DPA, Dudenhöffer thinks German factories will have an overcapacity of 1.3 to 1.7 million vehicles. 

Germany already saw domestic production drop from 5.1 to 4.7 million vehicles last year.

08:45 The German government will put aside strict procurement procedures to speed up the process of accessing masks and protection wear needed in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, German newspaper Welt am Sonntag has reported.

Firms usually face a lengthy and bureaucratic process to bid for government contracts, but under so-called “open-house” rules, the process will be simplified and opened for more companies to participate.

08:18 French politician Patrick Devedjian has died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, French media reported on Sunday morning.

Devedjian was a close adviser to former President of France Nicolas Sarkozy and managed France’s recovery from the 2008 financial crisis.

08:21 Saudi Arabia shut down entry and exit into the Jeddah governorate and brought forward the start of a curfew to 3 p.m. local time (1200 UTC).

The government applied the same measures to Riyadh, Mecca and Medina last week.

Read more: Coronavirus: Practicing Islam amid pandemic

08:00 One of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s possible successors has challenged her position on the restrictive measures instituted to stem the viral spread.

“It’s wrong to say that it’s too early to think about an exit strategy,” Armin Laschet, the state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, wrote in a guest column for German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. “We already need to be considering the time when the rigid measures are showing initial results.”

Merkel had said Thursday that is was too early to think about loosening the restrictions on commerce and public life, arguing that Germany would only be able to tell in a few weeks whether the measures were working in slowing transmission. Her government has said they will remain in effect through at least April 20.

Coronavirus infections are currently doubling in Germany at a rate of three to five days. Merkel’s government has said it would like to see the rate slowed to 10 to 12 days.

Both Merkel and Laschet are members of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Laschet is seen as a possible contender to succeed Merkel as the party’s chancellor candidate in the next federal elections. 

07:40 Vietnam has locked down one of its largest hospitals after the nation’s biggest
cluster of cases was linked to the facility.

The government says Hanoi’s Bach Mai Hospital, which has been the main treatment center for Covid-19, has been officially isolated.

As of Sunday morning, 16 virus cases have been linked to the facility, with both patients and staff among those infected, according to a government statement.

Read more: Corona stimulus plans overlook ‘historic’ chance for climate crisis

07:35 Hundreds of cruise ship passengers are due to board flights for Germany on Sunday evening, after spending days stranded at sea off the West Australian coast.

The owners of Artania have been locked in a stand-off with Australian authorities, who initially refused the ship permission to dock due to several COVID-19 cases onboard.

The ban has since been reversed and three passengers were taken onshore to intensive care wards.

Some 800 people will board planes in Perth bound for Frankfurt, a spokeswoman for Germany’s Condor Airlines told AFP.

07:15 South Korea says all overseas arrivals will be required to undergo two weeks of quarantine. The measure will begin on April 1.

On Sunday, the country announced 105 new coronavirus cases bringing the country’s total to 9,583. Of the new cases, 41 were travelers arriving from overseas, including 40 South Korean citizens and one foreigner, officials said.

06:45 German mail distributor Deutsche Post has laid out an “emergency plan” in case many of its workers fall sick from the novel coronavirus.

German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reports that in a worst-case scenario, only certain individuals and organizations would enjoy so-called postal privileges, including government agencies, the judiciary, the army and health facilities.

If the COVID-19 pandemic meant that more restrictions were put in place, the world’s largest courier company would only deliver to quarantined “closed areas” in exceptional circumstances.

06:40 Pakistan says confirmed cases of coronavirus have increased by 87, taking the country’s tally to 1,495. The death of a man in the commercial hub, Karachi, increased the death toll to 12.

Punjab province has the most infections at 557, followed by southern Sindh province with 469.

Pakistan controlled Kashmir has two confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, neighboring India has advised state governments to curtail a huge movement of migrant workers following the ordering of a 21-day lockdown.

06:17 New Zealand has reported its first death from COVID-19. A 75-year-old woman, hospitalized with suspected influenza, tested positive for coronavirus before dying. This means 21 health workers now will be quarantined as they had close contact with her.

New Zealand has 514 confirmed cases of COVID-19, a rise of 63 on Sunday.

06:23 The Olympic Games will now likely take place in July 2021, Japanese media have reported. The Games were postponed as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world, with authorities saying that they would take place at some point during the following year.

The most likely start date will now be July 23, 2021, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK, citing sources within the organizing panel. A final decision is expected within a week.

05:59 Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido has called for an emergency government to be formed in order to fight the health crisis posed by the coronavirus in the politically unstable country.

“Given the situation in Venezuela, which is going to worsen with the pandemic, today I present to the country the need to form a National Emergency Government,” Guaido said Saturday.

Since January 2019, Guaido has been leading a campaign against President Nicolas Maduro. Guaido maintains the long-ruling president has held onto power through fraudulent and anti-constitutional means. Guaido said Maduro could not be part of the national emergency government.

Venezuela is currently mired in an economic and humanitarian crisis, with massive medicine shortages and non-existent health care. So far, there have only been 119 cases of the coronavirus and two deaths, but the country is in a complete lockdown.

05:41 New York City Mayor Andrew Cuomo announced late Saturday that the presidential primary election is being delayed due to coronavirus. Instead of taking place on April 28, it will now take place on June 23.

“Public health is our number one priority and we will carry out this vital democratic process at a safer date,” he wrote on Twitter.

New York City has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 30,700 confirmed cases of infection and 672 deaths.

More than a dozen states have delayed elections, including the primaries to determine whether Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders will run as the democratic candidate against Donald Trump in November.

05:23 Chinese health officials on Sunday reported 45 new cases of coronavirus infection on the mainland, a drop from the previous’ days 54. All but one involved travelers entering the country from abroad. Five people also died from the infection.

In the last week, China has had only six confirmed cases of domestic transmission of the virus, leading some to wonder whether the spread within the country has been stopped.

Lockdown restrictions that had been in place since late January in Wuhan, the city at the center of the virus’ outbreak in December, were eased on Saturday. However, international travel restrictions were instituted on the same day.

05:00 The first US federal prison inmate has died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Patrick Jones, a 49-year-old jailed on drug charges, died in the southern state of Louisiana, the federal Bureau of Prisons reported.

There are more than 2.2 million people behind bars in the US – the highest number in the world. Health officials and criminal justice activists fear the virus could spread rampantly in the US prison system, thanks to dense living conditions, poor sanitation and restricted access to health services.

Many prisoners fall into the high-risk category due to age or underlying health conditions. Prison workers, who travel in and out of the facilities daily, are also at risk of contracting and spreading the disease.

There have been at least 350 confirmed cases of infection in prisons at the state level. Some states have started releasing low-level offenders who are high-risk.

Read more: Coronavirus: Countries scramble to retrieve tourists stranded in Asia

04:46 Germany’s public health institute, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), said cases of coronavirus infection had climbed by 3,965 by Saturday, reaching a nationwide total of 52,547. The number of related fatalities grew by 64 to 389.

According to the coronavirus research center run by Johns Hopkins University, in the US, the total number of infections in Germany is 57,695.

The difference in numbers can be traced to different information sourcing. The RKI waits to receive its numbers from local and regional authorities, which means there can sometimes be a delay in communication, especially over the weekend, and then a sudden jump in cases. In contrast, Johns Hopkins actively sources its numbers from official public updates and continually updates its totals.

Read more: Coronavirus: Why are the death rates different?

04:34 South Korea has 105 new cases of coronavirus infections as of midnight Saturday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The country’s new total is 9,583.

South Korea has been hailed as a model for having instituted widespread testing and social distancing early in the outbreak, measures which have been cited as helping to slow the virus’ spread. It has not instituted a lockdown, which many hard-hit European nations including Italy and Spain have done.

However, it has strengthened its controls in recent weeks as travelers have returned from other parts of the world, raising fears of a second wave of infections.

03:45 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19, will write a letter to every household in the UK, urging people to stay home and take precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

“We know things will get worse before they get better,” reads a copy of the text sent to British media. “But we are making the right preparations, and the more we all follow the rules, the fewer lives will be lost and the sooner life can return to normal.”

There are currently over 17,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,019 deaths in the UK. 

03:15 Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau said in a press conference outside his home that anyone displaying symptoms of COVID-19 will not be permitted to board domestic flights or intercity passenger trains in Canada. The restrictions will take effect on Monday.

Sophie Trudeau also announced on social media that she has recovered from COVID-19 after being diagnosed in mid-March. Her husband self-isolated and has been working from home, despite having not contracted the illness.  

02:45 Here is the latest from New York, the COVID-19 epicenter in the US:

The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a travel warning urging residents of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey to refrain from “non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.” The CDC said the warning does not apply to “critical industries” like trucking or public health professionals.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told a news conference data projections indicate the coronavirus outbreak in New York will peak in “14 to 21 days.”

Other states have expressed concern over people arriving from hard-hit New York, with the state of Rhode Island checking license plates and telling New Yorkers that they must self-quarantine for 14 days. Texas and Florida have also issued self-quarantine orders for people traveling from New York.

02:00 Mexico’s deputy health minister, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, called on the country’s residents to stay home for a month, saying it’s the only way to stop the spread of coronavirus. Mexico’s government has gone from downplaying the threat to stepping up calls for social distancing after COVID-19 cases doubled in a week. Mexico currently has over 700 cases.

01:30 German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said Germany would not ease restrictions on public life prematurely for economic reasons. In an interview with the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, Scholz said he rejected the idea that “we have to accept people dying for the economy to run.”

Easing of restrictions like opening closed businesses and restaurants must be based solely on medical criteria, Scholz said. In the US, President Trump was criticized last week for saying he wanted the nation “opened up and raring to go” by Easter. 

00:55 An infant diagnosed with COVID-19 died Saturday in Chicago in the US state of Illinois. The state’s health department said that “there has never before been a death associated with COVID-19 in an infant.”

00:45 After facing backlash from state leaders, US President Donald Trump announced that he decided against imposing a sweeping lockdown on New York City and surrounding areas, instead opting for a “strong travel advisory.”

“A quarantine will not be necessary,” he wrote on Twitter. He added that more concrete guidelines will be issued shortly.

00:20  The coronavirus death toll shot past 20,000 in Europe on Saturday, with Italy and Spain each reporting more than 800 dead in one day. The global death toll of COVID-19 is currently at over 30,000, with more than half of those fatalities in Italy and Spain alone. Germany currently has over 57,000 COVID-19 cases and 400 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

00:10 US President Donald Trump said he was considering an “enforceable quarantine” for New York City and areas in the neighboring states of New Jersey and Connecticut. 

“We might not have to do it but there’s a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine, short term, two weeks, on New York. Probably New Jersey, certain parts of Connecticut,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on Saturday.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told CNN he doesn’t know how a quarantine could be “legally enforceable,” saying it would amount to “a federal declaration of war.” He added that the president hadn’t yet raised the issue with him.

“I didn’t speak to him about any quarantine,” Cuomo said. “I don’t even know what that means.”

00:02 Coronavirus deaths in the United States have doubled since Wednesday, with the number of fatalities topping 2,000 on Saturday.

According to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University, over 500 of the COVID-19 fatalities were in New York City, which has the most cases in the US at nearly 30,000. The US currently has 121,117 COIVD-19 cases according to Saturday’s numbers, adding more than 20,000 cases in 24 hours.

00:00 Catch up on yesterday’s news here: More than 10,000 dead from coronavirus in Italy

wmr/rs (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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