The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the coronavirus outbreak, which has spread to at least 114 countries around the world, a pandemic with Italy tightening its quarantine and the US imposing a ban on flights to Europe.
“We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday. “We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.”
President Donald Trump announced new measures to address the United States growing outbreak, including a Europe travel ban that will take effect from midnight on Friday.
Italy has further tightened the quarantine it imposed across the country earlier this week – with all but essential services and shops to close for two weeks – after leaders from the European Union promised to do “whatever it takes” to tackle the coronavirus, which first emerged in China at the end of last year.
Meanwhile, the virus continued to spread in the United States and appeared in new countries including Bolivia, Honduras and Turkey, while Indonesia, Bulgaria and Sweden recorded their first deaths.
More than 66,000 people have recovered from the illness around the world, according to John Hopkins University, which is tracking the virus.
Here are the latest updates:
Thursday, March 12
04:40 GMT – Saudi Arabia suspends travel, flights to EU, several other countries
Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended travel of citizens and residents and halted flights with several states, state news agency SPA said on Thursday citing an official source at the Interior Ministry.
The ban includes the European Union, Switzerland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti, and Somalia, the source added, saying the Kingdom had also suspended entry to those coming from these countries.
The decision excludes health workers from the Philippines and India, and evacuation, shipping and trade trips taking necessary precautions.
04:35 GMT – Thailand reports 11 new cases, bringing total to 70
Thailand reported 11 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases in the Southeast Asian nation to 70, health officials said.
All the new patients had socialised and shared drinks, health officials said, adding that a tourist from Hong Kong had been the source of the infection.
“The Hong Kong tourist came alone and already went back. The 11 infected are all Thai,” said Sopon Iamsirithawon, director-general of the Communicable Diseases Department.
04:30 GMT – Greece reports first death from COVID-19
Greece has reported its first fatality from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The health ministry says the man who died was 67 and had recently returned from a religious pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt. He also had underlying health issues.
04:15 GMT – US House leaders unveil coronavirus bill
Democrats in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday unveiled a broad package of proposals to help Americans affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
The legislation, which Democratic leaders aim to push through on Thursday, would grant workers 14 days paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave, a summary of the bill shows.
Other provisions in the 124-page “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” introduced late on Wednesday include unemployment insurance, hundreds of millions of dollars for nutrition programmes and assistance for pregnant women.
It will also guarantee free coronavirus testing for anyone who requires it, including those who don’t have health insurance.
04:00 GMT – Japan must plan for Olympic cancellation risk
Japan must plan for any postponement or cancellation of the Tokyo Olympic Games, even if it seems unlikely, Shigeru Ishiba, a ruling party heavyweight seen as a leading candidate to be the next prime minister told Reuters.
Ishiba, an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said on Wednesday the fate of the summer games was a decision best left to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). He declined to comment on what the best move might be.
“Not thinking about worst-case scenarios won’t eliminate the risk of them materialising,” Ishiba said.
“The government must start thinking now about what to do” in case the Olympics Games is cancelled or postponed, he added.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Thursday there has been no change to plans for the games, which are supposed to start on July 24.
03:10 GMT – State department urges US citizens to reconsider all overseas travel
The State Department is urging all US citizens to reconsider travel overseas amid the deepening coronavirus outbreak.
02:50 GMT – New York postpones annual St Patrick’s Day parade
New York’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade has been postponed because of the coronavirus, governor Andrew Cuomo said.
Hundreds of thousands usually line the streets of Manhattan for the parade, which was due to take place on March 17 this year.
NEWS: The organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC have agreed to postpone the parade given the evolving #Coronavirus situation.
I thank the parade’s leadership for working cooperatively w/ us.
We believe postponing the parade is in the best interest of public health.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 12, 2020
02:40 GMT – Hanks and wife, Rita Wilson, in isolation in Gold Coast hospital
Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson are in isolation in a hospital on Australia’s Gold Coast after being confirmed to have the coronavirus, Queensland state health officials said.
Hanks and Wilson, who are both 63, are in Australia to shoot an Elvis Presley biopic. Work on the film has now been suspended.
02:30 GMT – South Korea expresses concern over cases at Seoul call centre
Authorities in South Korea warned a new cluster of cases in a Seoul call centre could see the coronavirus spread in the capital.
Around 100 people linked to a call centre in the city have tested positive for the virus in recent days.
“This could lead to a ‘super spread’ in the metropolitan area, where half of the entire population are concentrated,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a meeting on Thursday.
So far, about 90 percent of the country’s cases have been in the southern city of Daegu and the neighbouring province of North Gyeongsang.
02:05 GMT – NBA suspends US basketball season after positive test
The National Basketball Association said on Wednesday that it was suspending the season until further notice after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus.
The test result was reported shortly before the start of the Utah Jazz game with Oklahoma City Thunder.
The league said the affected player was not in the arena.
“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said.
“The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”
01:55 GMT – Asian Development Bank, Philippine Senate closed over coronavirus
The Philippines Senate has been sealed off and the Manila headquarters of the Asian Development Bank closed after visitors to both buildings were confirmed to have the coronavirus.
The parliament building is being disinfected and President Rodrigo Duterte will be tested for the virus as a precaution, his office said.
ADB staff have been told to work from home, while the building is deep-cleaned and disinfected.
“The safety of staff, visitors to the Bank, and their families is of utmost importance to us. We are providing support to staff who interacted with the visitor,” ADB Vice President for Administration and Corporate Management Deborah Stokes said in a statement posted on the ADB’s website.
01:40 GMT – Guyana, French Polynesia record coronavirus cases
Guyana, and French Polynesia have announced their first cases of coronavirus.
The person with the virus in Guyana was diagnosed after a trip to the US last week, while the case in French Polynesia involves Maina Sage, one of the islands’ representatives in the National Assembly. She returned from Paris at the weekend.
01:25 GMT – Actor Tom Hanks says he has been diagnosed with coronavirus
The Hollywood actor Tom Hanks says he and his wife have been diagnosed with the coronavirus after feeling a bit tired and having a slight fever while visiting Australia.
“To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the Coronavirus,” he wrote in a statement posted on social media.
— Tom Hanks (@tomhanks) March 12, 2020
01:20 GMT – South Korea reports 114 new cases
South Korea has given the first of its two daily updates of the coronavirus. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there were 114 new cases, as well as six more deaths.
With the new cases, South Korea has 7,869 people with the virus, and a total death toll of 66.
01:15 GMT – China announces 15 new cases of coronavirus, 11 deaths
China, the country where it all began, has given its daily update on the situation there.
The National Health Commission says it had 15 new cases – the lowest since the outbreak began at the end of December – and 11 deaths.
The hardest-hit province of Hubei and its capital Wuhan continue to account for the bulk of the country’s 80,793 cases and 3,169 deaths.
01:10 GMT – US to suspend all travel from Europe, except for UK
US President Donald Trump is speaking on the coronavirus from the White House.
He’s suspending all travel from Europe to the United States, with the exception of the United Kingdom, from midnight on Friday.
The ban will remain in force for a month.
He also announced a range of other measures, seeking to rebuff those who’ve criticised his response to the outbreak, which he attributed to a “foreign” virus.
“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” he said. Our team at Impact has been writing about the measures.
00:15 GMT – Australia announces $11.4bn stimulus plan
Australia announced a 17.6 billion Australian dollars ($11.41bn) economic stimulus plan on Thursday that includes wage subsidies and cash payments for small businesses to counter the effect of the coronavirus.
“Both this financial year and in the next two financial years, the gross impact of that stimulus is A$22.9 billion ($14.82 billion). That’s 1.2 percent of GDP (gross domestic product),” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
Source: AL JAZEERA