Coronavirus live news: Spain records new highest daily death toll, as Syria reports first Covid-19 death

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More than £250,000 has been raised to help provide free hot meal.....t to come.

More than £250,000 has been raised to help provide free hot meals for NHS staff in the UK, less than a week after the initiative was started by a small group of friends.

4,000 meals have been provided to hospitals, and tens of thousands more are expected soon.

“We were talking about how a group of friends who are NHS workers are just not eating properly,” Andrew Muir Wood, one of the founders, told the PA news agency.

“It’s hard for anyone to operate on an empty stomach let alone people trying to save lives, so we got together trying to work out how we could solve that,” Muir Wood added.

To support the campaign, visit www.mealsforthenhs.com.

Updated

In the UK, Stuart, a street outreach worker from Brighton, says his job has changed dramatically since coronavirus as they now have to get every homeless person indoords by this weekend.

While the threshold for housing people was once high, local authorities are now able to get accommodation in 30 minutes, he said. “Now, it’s all shifted and they are trying to negotiate with landlords and hotel owners to get people into accommodation.”

“It’s been quick, you send five people over and within 30 minutes the council can say got somewhere. New accommodation seems to have cropped up from landlords offering their services, but it is frustrating because the government has not allowed local authorities to requisition buildings from private owners. That would be easier and quicker. I had a problem that one hotel changed their mind last minute after we were going to place people there.”

The other role they now have is supporting those indoors, and making sure they get food as all the day centres have closed.

He said there was a mix of moods among the homeless. “Some have taken the news of the outbreak in their stride, while others are panicking. There are a small number who don’t want to go inside.”

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This is Stuart, a street outreach worker from Brighton. He is working to get every homeless person indoors by this weekend. While the threshold for housing people was once high, local authorities are now able to get accommodation in 30 minutes. "But it is frustrating because the government has not allowed local authorities to requisition buildings from private owners. That would be easier and quicker. I had a problem that one hotel changed their mind last minute after we were going to place people there,” he said.  He said there was a mix of moods among the homeless, with a quiet lull over Brighton and the once busy Western Road. “Some have taken the news of the outbreak in their stride, while others are panicking. There are a small number who don’t want to go inside.“ #coronavirusnews #coronavirusstories

A post shared by Sarah Marsh (@sarah_marsh_journalist) on

Moscow enters lockdown

Moscow has announced a citywide lockdown beginning tomorrow, confining residents of the city of nearly 12 million people to their homes to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The restrictions are some of the most severe in the Russian capital’s history and are comparable to steps taken in cities in Italy and China to slow the pandemic.

As of Monday, residents will not be allowed to leave their homes except to seek medical care, to travel to work if they provide essential services, to go to the nearest store or chemist, or to walk pets no further than 100 metres from their home.

The restrictions would not limit movement in and out of Moscow on personal cars, the statement read, emphasising that Russians could still enter or exit the capital.

Similar restrictions are expected in Moscow region, where another 7 million live.

It was not immediately clear if police or military would be deployed on the streets to enforce the ban. The statement referred to a “smart system of control,” indicating that the city may use facial recognition on cameras or use telephone geolocation data in order to track the movements of people around the city.

“The extremely negative turn of events that we have seen in the largest cities of Europe and the United States have caused great concern for the life and health of our citizens,” read a statement on the personal website of Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

Russia has identified 1,534 cases of coronavirus so far. Eight deaths have been attributed to the virus. Vladimir Putin has announced a national holiday for the coming week but stopped short of declaring a national state of emergency.
Sobyanin also said that because of an expected spike in job losses, the city would disburse 19,500 roubles (£200) per month in unemployment.

Updated

Jérôme Salomon, the head of France’s health authority, has issued an update on the country’s situation.

  • The total number of confirmed cases in France is 40,174.
  • There are currently 19,354 people in hospital in France, an increase of 10% on the previous day. There are 4,632 people in intensive care in hospital, 359 more than yesterday.
  • Of those in intensive care: 34% are under 60 years old; 64% aged 60-80; 60 people are under 30 years old.
  • 7,132 people have recovered, Salomon said.
  • There have been 2,606 deaths in French hospitals. This is an increase of 292 in 24 hours.

Italy to extend lockdown

Italy has said it will extend its month-long lockdown as the number of deaths in the country increased by 756 to reach 10,779. There are now 97,689 confirmed cases in Italy.

Updated

Reuters reports that there have been 10 new coronavirus deaths in Ireland, bringing the country’s total to 46. The health department has announced 200 new confirmed cases, making a total of 2,615.

Updated

The United Arab Emirates has reported one new death and 102 new cases. This brings the death toll to three, and the total number of infections to 570.

Summary

Here are some of the key developments:

  • The coronavirus pandemic has killed over 30,000 people. The total number of confirmed cases is currently at 691,867, according to Johns Hopkins.
  • The finance minister of Germany’s Hesse state, Thomas Schäfer, has killed himself after apparently becoming “deeply worried” about how to deal with the economic impact of coronavirus.
  • The Syrian health ministry has announced the country’s first coronavirus death, as the total number of cases comes to nine.
  • The death toll in Lombardy, Italy’s worst affected region, has slowed. It rose by about 416 in a day to at least 6,360.
  • The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, has said the city will run out of critical medical supplies, including ventilators, by next Sunday, 5 April.
  • New curfew regulations have been introduced in Serbia. The country has increased its curfew from 3pm till 5am on weekends, and 5pm till 5am on weekdays.
  • The UK death toll has increased by 209 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths in the UK to 1,228. The figure was lower than Saturday’s record rise of 260.
  • The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has tightened social distancing measures. New advice states that public gatherings should include no more than two people outside of the household.
  • Kuwait’s health ministry has announced 20 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours, pushing the total number of infections to 225.
  • Mexico has asked its 130 million citizens to stay at home for a month. The country’s president has previously been criticised for not doing enough to deal with the crisis.

Updated

Saudi Arabia has reported four deaths and 96 new coronavirus cases today.

This brings the the death toll to eight and the total number of coronavirus cases to 1,299.

Saudi Arabia has tightened its restrictions on movements to contain spread of coronavirus. The interior ministry has today banned residents from entering or exiting the city of Jeddah.

Updated

German state's finance minister kills himself

The finance minister of Germany’s Hesse state, Thomas Schäfer, has killed himself after apparently becoming “deeply worried” about how to deal with the economic impact of coronavirus, the Local reports.

“We are in shock, we are in disbelief and above all we are immensely sad,” state premier Volker Bouffier said in a statement.

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email [email protected] or [email protected]. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

Updated

As hospitals hit capacity in Spain, healthcare workers are being stretched to breaking point. Hospital staff in Madrid have been meditating to cope with the stress.

Updated

Syria reports its first coronavirus death

The Syrian health ministry has announced the first coronavirus death in the country. Four new cases have also been confirmed, pushing the total number of infections to nine.

The patient died upon her arrival to the hospital’s emergency department, state run news agency reports.

Syria has implemented several precautionary measures to slow the spread of the deadly virus, with a nationwide curfew from 6pm to 6 am beginning last week. Shops, markets and public transport have been shut down as well with only pharmacies allowed to keep their opens, according to Al Arabia.

Updated

An aeroplane used as an air ambulance has burst into flames in the Philippines, killing all eight people onboard.

The New York Times reports that it is unclear if the passengers were being airlifted for coronavirus treatment. Local reports say that in addition to the pilot, the plane was carrying two crew members, a doctor, a nurse, a flight medic and an American and a Canadian passenger.

Updated

Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, has announced a funding boost for a children’s helpline to support those who are isolated at home.

Updated

Engineering firms have said that the UK may not have enough ventilators when coronavirus cases reach their peak, the BBC reports.

The UK has just over 8,000 ventilators, but it is estimated the country will need 30,000 during the peak of the crisis, which is expected in two weeks’ time. Manufacturers have said they will be unable to meet that deadline.

Updated

Clea Skopeliti here, taking over from my colleague Jedidajah.

Spot something I’ve missed? Feel free to message me on Twitter @cleaskopeliti.

As we cover the UK’s daily government briefing too, please follow our UK blog here.

Updated

Daily death toll slows in Lombardy

The coronavirus death toll in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, the country’s worst affected, has risen by about 416 in a day to at least 6,360, Reuters reports.

Day-on-day the deaths were down markedly from Saturday’s 542, which was the second largest since the outbreak first emerged just over five weeks ago.

The number of cases in the region, which includes the country’s financial capital, Milan, increased by 1,592 to approximately 41,007, the source said.

Updated

Dutch GPs are phoning elderly and at-risk patients to check if they are willing to take the risk of dying at home in case they get Covid-19, so that their hospital bed can be taken up by someone with better survival chances, the Volkskrant newspaper reported.

In the Dutch healthcare system such conversations are normally carried out face to face.

Bianca Buurman, professor of acute elderly care at Amsterdam UMC, emphasised in an article published with three other colleagues the importance for healthcare providers to contact elderly people to ask what their wishes would be if they were affected by the virus.

“Proximity is important for such tough topics, but going by is not an option now,” Buurman said. “We don’t really know whether such a conversation will further fuel fear.”

Updated

The US government’s leading infection disease expert, Anthony Fauci, has said the country could experience more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections from the pandemic.

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Fauci offered his prognosis as the federal government mulls rolling back social distancing measures in areas that have not been hard-hit by the outbreak, when the nationwide 15-day effort to slow the spread of the virus will come to an end.

Updated

As Spain’s Covid-19 death toll has surpassed that of China, and the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has tightened the country’s lockdown, my colleague Ashifa Kassam reports on the increasingly desperate attempts of Spanish doctors and nurses to fight the virus.

Updated

New York City to run out of supplies in a week

The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, has said his city will run out of critical medical supplies, including ventilators, by next Sunday, 5 April.

In a tweet, he said: “We’re at war and ventilators are our ammunition.”

New York is the worst-affected US state, with most deaths in the country having so far been recorded in New York, where also a third of the about 52,000 people who have so far been confirmed to have the virus are from.

Updated

As we reported this morning, the British Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, has said the peak of the coronavirus outbreak in Britain will depend on people’s actions. He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show that the lockdown would remain in place for a “significant period”.

Here a video of Gove’s comments by my colleague Elena Morresi:

Updated

Hundreds of doctors in the UK have said they are less likely to return to the frontline or increase their hours to fight Covid-19 because they believe their families will not be properly compensated if they die, my colleagues Robert Booth and Denis Campbell report.

Full story below.

Updated

A plane loaded with medical supplies has arrived in New York from China on Sunday, the first in a series of flights the White House has organised over the next 30 days, Reuters reports.

A commercial carrier landed at John F Kennedy airport carrying gloves, gowns and masks for distribution in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, three particularly hard-hit states in the US.

The airlift is a product of a team led by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, which formed “Project Airbridge”, a partnership between several large US healthcare distributors and the federal government.

Donald Trump, who initially played down the threat from the virus, has been searching for supplies to fill the mounting need for equipment to protect healthcare workers caring for Covid-19 patients.

Updated

The coronavirus pandemic already looks to be profoundly reshaping Latin America’s political landscape.

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó - whom nearly 60 governments recognise as the country’s rightful interim president – has spent the last 15 months battling to topple Nicolás Maduro and force his Socialist party from power.

But on Saturday Guaidó announced he now believed it was time for a national unity government to tackle the impending emergency, which is likely to hit the crisis-stricken country hard.

“For obvious reasons it cannot be lead by Maduro,” Guaidó tweeted. “But neither can it be solely made up of the forces we represent,” he added in a video address arguing that “all political and social forces” needed to be included.

Maduro’s administration has so far confirmed 119 coronavirus cases and two deaths in Venezuela and has placed many parts of the country on lockdown in an attempt to halt its spread.

But many suspect the real numbers are far higher and in Saturday’s broadcast Guaidó said the situation was likely to deteriorate, with Venezuela’s collapsing healthcare system ill-equipped to deal with a wave of Covid-19 deaths.

“Unfortunately everything suggests the situation will get worse because of the situation our country finds itself in,” Guaidó said. “In the coming weeks Venezuela could become the country with the highest number of infections in the region.”

Updated

New curfew regulations have been introduced in Serbia.

On Saturday, Serbia stepped up its curfew from 3pm till 5am on weekends, and 5pm till 5am on weekdays.

All people over 65 years old resident in cities have been asked to stay home at all times, except for designated shopping hours from 3am till 8am on Sundays. The borders have been closed for a while but now the period for which all returning citizens must self-isolate has been extended to 28 days

Updated

Hi, this is Jedidajah Otte again, taking back over.

My colleagues Lily Kuo and Helen Davidson are reporting that foreigners in China are observing a rise in xenophobia in the country amid the global Covid-19 outbreak.

As Chinese health officials report new “imported” coronavirus cases almost every day, foreigners have been turned away from restaurants, shops, gyms and hotels, subjected to further screening, yelled at by locals and avoided in public spaces.

209 more die in the UK

The UK death toll from coronavirus has increased by 209 people in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths in the UK to 1,228 so far.

The figure was lower than Saturday’s record rise of 260, which may bring some hope that the rise in deaths could stabilise soon.

The Department of Health and Social Care also said 19,522 had now tested positive for Covid-19 in the UK.

More on our UK coronavirus liveblog.

Updated

Iran’s president has defended his country’s response to the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, saying the government has to weigh economic concerns as it takes measures to contain the pandemic.

Hassan Rouhani told Associated Press that authorities had to consider the effect of mass quarantine efforts on Iran’s beleaguered economy, which is under heavy US sanctions.

“It’s a dilemma playing out across the globe, as leaders struggle to strike a balance between restricting human contact and keeping their economies from crashing,” Rouhani said at a cabinet meeting.

“Health is a principle for us, but the production and security of society is also a principle for us. We must put these principles together to reach a final decision.”

On Sunday, state TV reported another 123 deaths, pushing Iran’s overall death toll to 2,640 among 38,309 confirmed cases.

In recent days, the country has ordered the closure of non-essential businesses and banned travel between cities. But those measures came long after other countries in the region imposed more sweeping lockdowns. Many Iranians are still flouting orders to stay home in what could reflect widespread distrust of authorities.

Updated

More news from my colleague, Shaun Walker, our central and eastern Europe correspondent, based in Budapest:

The main opposition candidate in Polish presidential elections has called on the public to boycott the vote if the government insists on going ahead with it on 10 May.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has refused to call off the vote despite a lockdown currently in place to fight coronavirus, with its incumbent Andrzej Duda the favourite to win another term. In the early hours of Saturday, the Polish parliament passed an amendment allowing pensioners and those in quarantine to vote by post.

On Sunday, Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, the main opposition candidate, published an open letter on Facebook:

“There is no other task in Poland today than to fight the [coronavirus] outbreak and its effects … In this situation, organising presidential elections would be a reckless act. Everyone should agree with the principle that we must not put human life at risk.”

She said if the vote did go ahead, the government would be responsible for any citizens who got sick, and called on other candidates to also boycott the race. The opposition has previously said the vote should be postponed because it would be inappropriate to run a campaign during a pandemic.

Updated

Luxury fashion group Chanel has said it will launch production of face masks to help bolster supplies in France in its fight against the virus.

Prototypes were being worked on and would roll off production lines once they received the approval of French authorities, reported Reuters.

“Today we are mobilising our workforce and our partners ... to produce protective masks and blouses,” Chanel said in a statement.

On Saturday, Olivier Veran, the health minister, said the government had ordered more than a billion face masks – mostly from China – to be supplied in the weeks and months ahead.

France was using 40m face masks per week, he said. Doctors, nursing home carers and police have complained of shortages.

Chanel also said it would not be putting any of its 4,500 employees into temporary unemployment as the company weathers the sharp downtown in economic activity.

Updated

This is Nazia Parveen, briefly taking over from my colleague Jedidajah Otte. I’ll be keeping you up to date on the situation around the world. You can get in touch with me on Twitter or by email at [email protected]. I might not have time to reply but I will certainly give emails and messages a read.

Updated

As reported earlier, the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has stepped up measures to limit the spread of coronavirus. New advice warns that public gatherings should include no more than two people outside of the household.

Morrison said Australians now needed to stay home unless they were shopping for food and other essentials, attending medical appointments, exercising, or attending work or education. People aged 70 and over “should stay at home and self-isolate for their own protection”.

Here is a video:

Updated

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, has asked the population for forgiveness after imposing a lockdown, the BBC reports.

After the shutdown, which was implemented with less than four hours’ notice, was criticised for lacking a proper plan, Modi apologised for the impact in his weekly radio address.

“Possibly many would be angry at me for being locked in their homes. I understand your troubles but there was no other way to wage war against coronavirus. For a country like India with a population of 1.3 billion it is a battle of life and death and we have to win it,” he said.

Updated

Kuwait’s health ministry has announced 20 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours, pushing the total number of infections to 225.

Seven of the new cases are related to travel to the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia. 13 others were infected due to their contact with previously confirmed cases, the health ministry said.

Kuwait has reported 67 recoveries so far.

Updated

Spain and Italy demanded more European help as they fight still-surging coronavirus infections amid the continents worst crisis since the second world war, the Associated Press reports.

Both countries together account for more than half of the world’s Covid-19 death toll, and are still seeing over 800 deaths a day each.

Europe must demonstrate that it is able to respond to this historic call, the Italian premier, Giuseppe Conte, said on Saturday evening. “I will fight until the last drop of sweat, until the last gram of energy, to obtain a strong, vigorous, cohesive European response,” he said.

The death toll of some countries could yet be much higher than reported, experts say, as unlike the US, France and Italy for instance do not count deaths that take place in nursing homes or in homes among their virus numbers.

Updated

More news from my colleague Tom Phillips, our Latin America correspondent:

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó has called for the creation of an emergency government of national unity to face up to the coronavirus crisis. Guaidó has been fighting to topple Nicolas Maduro since January 2019, so this represents a major direction change for his campaign.

In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has reportedly told his health minister he will sack him if he criticises his handling of the coronavirus crisis. The health minister, in return, has asked Bolsonaro whether he is really ready to see army trucks transporting hundreds and hundreds of bodies through the streets of Brazilian cities in front of the cameras.

One Brazilian commentator has come up with a new nickname for Brazil’s far-right leader in today’s paper: “Captain Corona.”

Updated

The sale of alcohol has been banned in the Greenland capital, Nuuk, in an attempt to reduce violence against children during the period of confinement, AFP reports.

“In such a situation, we have to take numerous measures to avoid infection,” the government leader Kim Kielsen said in a statement on Saturday.

“But at the heart of my decision is the protection of children, they have to have a safe home.”

Nearly one in three people living in the autonomous Danish Arctic territory suffered sexual abuse during childhood. Experts link the abuse to alcohol, drugs and ignorance of children’s rights.

After Greenland closed down schools from Monday with 10 cases of the novel coronavirus diagnosed, a rise in violence followed.

“Unfortunately, in Nuuk, domestic violence has been on the rise in recent weeks,” the health minister Martha Abelsen told local media. Excessive drinking by parents exposes children to dangers in the home, Greenlanders were warned.

The alcohol ban came into force on Saturday and is scheduled to last until 15 April.

Updated

Mexico has implored its 130 million citizens to stay at home for a month, arguing that is the only way to slow the transmission of the coronavirus through Latin America’s second biggest economy.

Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has been condemned for his dismissive response to the crisis and for continuing to attend public events, where he has hugged and kissed fans.

On Saturday afternoon, one of the country’s top health officials issued a direct plea to Mexican citizens not to go out.

“We need to reduce the speed of transmission urgently. Urgently. This is our last chance to do it and do it now,” said Hugo López-Gatell, the deputy health minister. “And this means we need to stay at home in massive numbers.”

López Obrador, had made a similar call on Friday night in a pre-recorded message to the nation.

But on Sunday morning the leftwing populist was out and about again, tweeting video footage from a tour he is conducting of cities along the Mexico-US border.

So far 848 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Mexico and 16 deaths, although low testing rates means the real numbers are likely to be higher.

Updated

Summary

Here a few key developments at a glance:

  • Spain has recorded a further 838 deaths, a record daily increase of fatalities in the country.
  • Tokyo has confirmed 68 new coronavirus cases, another record daily increase, as millions of people in and around Tokyo are urged to stay at home unless a trip outside is necessary.
  • The British cabinet minister Michael Gove has said the lockdown restrictions in the UK could remain in place for a “significant period”, as criticism mounted over the government’s testing of cases and ordering of ventilators under an EU scheme they did not participate in because of “communication problems”.
  • Italy’s deputy health minister, Pierpaolo Sileri, has said he expects the country, which is globally the worst affected by Covid-19 and has now recorded more than 10,000 deaths, to hit its infection peak in no more than 10 days.
  • Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, has announced further restrictions for the population, including limiting public gatherings to just two people. People should only leave their homes for essential reasons, and those over the age of 70 should stay home, he said.
  • Domestic abuse victims are allowed to leave home to seek help despite the lockdown rules, the UK home secretary, Priti Patel, has said in a column in the Mail on Sunday.
  • The Swiss Covid-19 death toll has risen to 257, up from 235 on the previous day, with the number of confirmed cases now at 14,336, from 13,213.
  • All travellers entering South Korea will be subjected to two weeks of mandatory quarantine starting at midnight next Wednesday, the prime minister, Chung Sye-kyun, announced on Sunday.
  • Domestic flights will resume in Hubei province, except in Wuhan, from Sunday midnight local time, as China’s new infections continue to fall.

Updated

Swiss death toll rises to 257

The Swiss Covid-19 death toll has risen from 235 to 257 in a day, Reuters report.

The number of confirmed cases has increased to 14,336 from 13,213, the Swiss health agency said.

Updated

Mass funerals still being held in ultra-Orthodox Jewish circles in Israel are threatening to accelerate the spread of the virus in the country, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

An estimated 300 people ignored social distancing rules and participated in the funeral of rabbi Tzvi Shinkar in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak on Saturday night.

The coronavirus is now spreading fastest in ultra-Orthodox communities in Israel, according to internal health ministry figures obtained by Haaretz.

Updated

The French authorities are leafleting migrants in camps at Calais and Dunkirk this weekend before a “voluntary” evacuation sparked by concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

Police will begin transferring migrants to temporary centres across the on Tuesday. Officials insist this will be done on a “voluntary basis”, according to reports in the local press.

Buses will be sent to the camps transfer occupants to regional centres housing up to 100 people from 31 March. The migrants who agree to leave will be given a medical check before being placed in a bus and taken “far from Calais and Dunkirk”. Once they reach the temporary accommodation they will be expected to keep the same lockdown rules as the rest of the French population.

The decision to evacuate the migrants was taken after consultations with humanitarian organisations working in the camps, say authorities. Many of the French and British humanitarian organisations who have been helping the migrants with food and medical care have pulled out because of the difficulties with working since the national lockdown since 17 March and concerns about the risk to volunteers.

There are believed to be around 600 migrants living in between five to eight encampments around the Channel port at Calais. There are an estimated 600 further north at Grande Synthe near Dunkirk.

Even before the coronavirus crisis, life in the camps was grim. Volunteers said asking migrants who were often four or five sharing a single tent to maintain “social distancing” was impossible.

Updated

Record daily increase in Tokyo

Tokyo has confirmed 68 new coronavirus cases, a record daily increase, the public broadcaster NHK reported on Sunday.

Japanese authorities fear a rise in cases, after the country has so far benefited from low infection rates in an otherwise troubled region.

1,800 people have been reported infected in Japan, with 55 deaths as of Sunday afternoon, NHK said.

Millions of people in and around Tokyo have been asked to avoid non-essential outings until 12 April.

Updated

France’s high-speed TGV trains are being used to free up intensive care beds in some of the country’s worst-hit areas, AFP reports.

The trains have been adapted into hospitals on wheels for transport critical patients around the country.

“We have a lot more space than in an ambulance or a helicopter,” said François Braun, president of the Samu emergency service.

A British national who tested positive for Covid-19 in South Korea may face penalties for not observing quarantine rules.

The resident of Suwon, Gyeonggi province, got tested for the virus on 23 March, five days after he returned from a trip to Thailand, the Korea Herald reported.

Although he was required to self-isolate until the results were out, he travelled to another city by bike that evening, and the next morning he visited an indoor golf range.

Suwon’s mayor, Yeom Tae-young, said on Facebook that the city would hold the person responsible for violating quarantine rules. “The city will deal with this sternly,” he said.

Under recently revised laws, those violating quarantine rules or obstructing quarantine efforts may face up to 1 year in prison and fines of up to 10m won. Additionally, foreign violators could face deportation, authorities said.

Updated

My colleagues Shaun Walker and Christian Davies have written a story on concerns that eastern Europe might experience a surge in infections after a lack of testing to date.

So far, eastern European countries have far lower infection rates than several of their western neighbours.

Updated

Iran announced 123 more deaths from coronavirus over the past 24 hours, which brings the country’s total to 2,640, AFP reports.

Afghanistan’s health ministry confirmed seven new coronavirus cases in last 24 hours, pushing the total number of infections to 117, my colleague Akhtar Mohammad Makoii reports from Afghanistan.

Six of the new positive cases were reported in the western province of Herat, which neighbors Iran.

Updated

Spain’s cabinet is meeting this morning to approve a tightening up of the country’s lockdown in which all non-essential workers will be ordered to stay at home for two weeks.

The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said the “extraordinarily tough” measures were needed as the county tries to halt the spread of the virus and reduce the strain on its overstretched hospitals.

“This measure will reduce people’s movement even further [but] it will reduce the risk of contagion and allow us to unblock out intensive care units,” the prime minister said in a televised address on Saturday night.

Despite the high death toll of recent days, Fernando Simón, the head of Spain’s centre for health emergencies, said that the situation in some regions appeared to be improving.

“We’re getting there,” Simón told a press conference on Saturday afternoon. “We don’t know exactly when we’ll get confirmation, but we’re getting close to the peak of the curve that we’re studying so anxiously. In some parts of the country, they probably may even have passed it – but we need to be cautious with preliminary information.”

Updated

Spain records further 838 deaths

A further 838 people have died in Spain over the past 24 hours, the country’s health ministry has said.

It is the highest daily increase in fatalities so far, bringing the total number of deaths from the virus to 6,528. The total number of infections now stands at 78,797, up from 72,248.

An update from the World Health Organization on the coronavirus outbreak in Kenya:

UK lockdown to be in place for 'significant period'

Michael Gove has said the peak of the coronavirus is dependent on people’s actions and that the lockdown will remain in place for a significant period.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, the Cabinet Office minister said:

It’s difficult to know precisely [when the UK hit the peak of the coronavirus outbreak]. It depends on the action all of us take. if we practice the social distancing measures. If we follow the rules the government has outlined, if we follow that good scientific advice, then we can delay the infection rate and that gives our NHS the chance to become more resilient.

So, the date of the peak depends on all of our behaviour. It’s not a fixed point, a date in the calendar like Easter, it is something that all of us can affect by our actions.

He added that the public must prepare for a “significant period” of lockdown.

Everyone is making a sacrifice and I appreciate the scale of that sacrifice. But the reason all of us are making these sacrifices is because all of us will have people whom we love who are at risk from this virus.

I can’t make an accurate prediction, but everyone does have to prepare for a significant period when these measures are still in place.

Updated

This from my colleague Philip Oltermann, the Guardian’s Berlin bureau chief:

Italy’s deputy health minister, Pierpaolo Sileri, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show he thinks the country is nearing the peak of its outbreak.

More than 10,000 people in Italy have died far, exceeding by far death rates in other countries.

Sileri said that in 10 days “maximum” the country would see its infection rates reducing.

Updated

Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, has announced further restrictions on movement, including limiting public gatherings to just two people.

People should only leave their homes for essential reasons, and those over the age of 70 should stay home, he said.

All playgrounds and outdoor gyms parks in Australia will close from Monday.

Updated

Domestic flights will resume in Hubei province, except at Wuhan’s Tianhe international airport, from Sunday midnight local time, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

All passenger and cargo flights on domestic air routes via airports will resume.

The province, for weeks the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak, has seen its restrictions being gradually lifted by the government, as the country’s cases of infection has continued to fall.

Flights to and from the city of Wuhan are expected resume at midnight on 8 April, when the city’s lockdown is due to be lifted.

Updated

The Italian deputy health minister, Pierpaolo Sileri, has said that the lockdown in the country is beginning to work, but he said it would take at least a fortnight for the benefits to show, after all movement was banned and non-essential businesses closed on Sunday.

Over the last few days we had an increase of infections [but] this was due to an increase in [testing]. We are searching more and obviously we have more results of positive people, mainly without symptoms.

We are live in the peak of this epidemic. I believe in one week time, 10 days maximum, we will see a significant drop in cases.

There were 900 people confirmed to have died in Italy from Covid-19 yesterday, bringing the total in the country to more than 10,000.

Sileri rejected reported criticism from China concerning Italy’s apparent failure to lockdown more quickly and more completely.

I believe we have been very, very fast. We’ve been very unlucky to have several outbreaks in a very active part of our country, Lombardy, and we did not find patient zero. Probably patient one was not even patient one.

Updated

All travellers entering South Korea will be subjected to two weeks of mandatory quarantine starting midnight on Wednesday, 1 April, the prime minister, Chung Sye-kyun, announced on Sunday.

“The measure will also include short-term foreign visitors in order to practically block the entry for unimportant purposes, such as tourism,” Chung said, according to CNN.

Those who don’t have an address in the country will be quarantined in a government provided facility for two weeks at their own expense.

Previously, the mandatory quarantine order was for travellers coming into South Korea from the US and Europe.

Updated

The cabinet minister Michael Gove said the UK government is “very concerned” about the rising number of deaths and infections.

Gove told Sky News that Britain was now carrying out 10,000 tests per day and the government was doing “all that we can” to accelerate that rate.

“Naturally we are very concerned and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all those who have lost loved ones in the last few days,” he told Sky News.

Updated

Qatar Airways will continue to operate flights for as long as necessary to get stranded travellers home but might run out of cash soon, Reuters reported.

The airline’s chief executive, Akbar al-Baker, said: “We have enough cash to take us through a very short period of time,” adding that it would eventually have to seek support from its owner, the Qatar government.

Qatar Airways is one of few global carriers to continue operating after the coronavirus outbreak reduced global travel demand drastically over the past weeks.

Updated

Domestic abuse victims are allowed to leave home to seek help despite the lockdown rules, the home secretary has said.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Priti Patel said restrictions imposed on the population by the government to stay indoors were even more challenging for people whose “home is not the safe haven it should be”.

Police and campaigners had previously said the instruction to stay indoors poses risks for domestic abuse victims.

“I am acutely aware that the necessary guidelines about social distancing and self-isolation may leave the victims of hidden crime, such as domestic abuse and child sexual abuse, feeling especially isolated, vulnerable and exposed,” Patel wrote.

“But my message to every potential victim is simple: we have not forgotten you and we will not let you down.

“And my message to every perpetrator is equally as simple: you will not get away with your crimes.”

Updated

Here my colleague Harriet Sherwood’s story on how the Covid-19 outbreak is driving midwife shortages in the UK.

The NHS shortage of midwives has doubled since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, she reports, with one in five midwifery posts now unfilled, raising concerns about the safety of pregnant women, new mothers and newborn babies.

The world’s largest glove maker, Malaysia’s Top Glove Corporation Bhd, which makes one in every five gloves globally, expects a product shortage as demand from Europe and the United States is exceeding its capacity, Reuters reports.

The company has extended shipping times to cope with the demand surge, according to executive chairman Lim Wee Chai.

Lim said orders received in the past few weeks, mainly from Europe and the United States, were almost double the company’s production capacity. Top Glove can produce 200 million natural and synthetic rubber gloves a day.

A 33-year-old member of staff of the Louisiana governor, John Bel Edwards, has died from complications with Covid-19, CNN reports.

April Dunn served in the governor’s Office of Disability Affairs.

“It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the loss of our dear April,” Edwards said. “She brightened everyone’s day with her smile, was a tremendous asset to our team and an inspiration to everyone who met her.

“She lived her life to the fullest and improved the lives of countless Louisianans with disabilities. April worked hard as an advocate for herself and other members of the disability community.”

Updated

My colleagues Patrick Greenfield and Erin McCormick have written a story about the crisis-stricken cruise liner Zaandam, which is trying to reach Florida.

Summary

  • More than 30,000 people have died after contracting Covid-19, from more than 660,700 confirmed cases.
  • The coronavirus death toll in France has passed the grim milestone of 2,000 deaths, with more than 38,000 cases, and the US has reported more than 120,000 cases.
  • Japan has reported a record daily increase in cases, with 68 new confirmed diagnoses on Sunday.
  • New Zealand reported its first death on Sunday, Singapore reported its third, Thailand its seventh, and Australia its 15th and 16th.
  • The US CDC issued an immediate warning to residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to avoid all non-essential travel for the next 14 days.
  • It came after US president Donald Trump had earlier proposed an enforced regional quarantine on the state of New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut, prompting an angry rebuke from NY governor Andrew Cuomo. Trump later said quarantine would not be necessary and he had asked the CDC to instead issue a serious travel warning for the areas.
  • Spain, Northern Ireland, and Timor-Leste are among countries to introduce new waves of restrictions.
  • Ireland’s Health Service Executive would begin distributing around €20m worth of personal protective equipment to health workers from Sunday, after the first of up to 11 flights made its way back from China with supplies.
  • Thousands of migrants bound for the US have amassed in immigration shelters in Panama and Costa Rica as plans to relocate them to less crowded areas to lower the risk of spreading the coronavirus have faltered.
  • UK prime minister Boris Johnson, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 yesterday, has warned British households that the virus epidemic will get worse before it gets better.
  • The Zandam cruise ship, which has hundreds of passengers on board including at least 130 with flu-like symptoms, has been granted passage through the Panama Canal. Four people on the ship have died and two of those with symptoms have been diagnosed with Covid-19.
  • Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, wife of the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, said she has recovered from Covid-19. Her husband and their three children have been in isolation and haven’t shown symptoms.
  • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliff, the British-Iranian aid worker who has been detained in Iran on spying charges has had her prison leave extended and her case put forward for clemency, her husband said

Updated

Hi all, I am taking over the blog from my colleague Helen Davidson.

If you want to get my attention with an update on the Covid-19 situation, please flag either on Twitter @JedySays or email me at [email protected]

Here’s a wrap of today’s developments, leading on the news that the US infectious diseases authority, the CDC, has urged millions of residents in three states touching the New York City region to avoid non-essential travel, citing extensive spread of coronavirus among the population.

Japan has reported a record daily increase in cases, with 68 mew confirmed diagnoses on Sunday.

Infections in Japan have climbed to more than 1,700, with 55 deaths as of early Sunday, excluding those from a cruise ship quarantined last month, broadcaster NHK reported.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has asked the tens of millions of people in the city and surrounding regions to avoid non-essential, non-urgent outings until 12 April, particularly this weekend.

There has been enormous concern about efforts taken - in multiple countries - to protect inmates from the virus, including in the US.

On Saturday the federal bureau of prisons announced Patrick Jones, a 49-year-old prisoner in Louisiana who was serving a 27-year prison term for a drug charge, had become the first federal inmate to die from Covid-19.

According to the BOP’s website on Saturday, there were five inmates who have tested positive for Covid-19 at Oakdale, Reuters reports.

Criminal justice advocates and prison union officials have in recent days called on the Justice Department to do more to try and prevent the spread of the virus.

Critics have said the Justice Department should fast-track the release of non-violent offenders who qualify based on age and pre-existing conditions.

In Australia, group of more than 100 lawyers in Victoria have called for the release of some prisoners during the pandemic, focusing on those who are vulnerable, close to parole, or with fewer than six months to go on their sentence.

“The prison system is not an island and is not immune from the ravages of COVID-19,” they wrote to government.

“It will enter into the system creating intense hotspots, presenting extreme risk to prison and wider communities. Prisoners will be subject to lockdown, social isolation and isolation from their families. Their mortality rates will be higher in custody than if they were in the community.

Allowing this unnecessary exposure to a potentially deadly infection to the listed classes of prisoner will be such as to amount to torture.”

From Reuters:

Cambodia reported one new case of the coronavirus on Sunday, bringing the total to 103 as the country prepares to tighten entry requirements for foreign nationals to try to curb the spread of the virus.

The new case is a 30-year-old woman who worked in a karaoke club in Cambodia’s northwestern Banteay Meanchey province, the Ministry of Health said in a statement. A total of 21 patients have recovered since January, the ministry said.

Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said on Friday it cancel visas on arrival for foreign nationals for one month, effective midnight of March 30, to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Foreign nationals wishing to travel to Cambodia must obtain a prior visa abroad and they must have medical certificate “certifying that he/she has not tested positive” with the virus, the ministry said.

In addition, the must show proof of medical insurance with coverage of at least $50,000, the ministry said.

Singapore has reported its third death from Covid-19.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said a 70 year-old male Singapore citizen with no recent travel history to affected places, died on Sunday.

According to Channel News Asia, the man had a hypertension and hyperlipidaemia, and was admitted to hospital on 29 February, and had been in intensive care since 2 March.

70 new cases in Singapore were reported on Saturday, bringing the total to 802.

Singapore recently introduced new restrictions on social gatherings and services, after concerns about a rise in imported cases and potential community complacency.

Thailand has 143 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total of cases since the outbreak to 1,388, the spokesman of the government’s Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) said on Sunday.

It also reported one new fatality, bringing Thailand’s since the outbreak started to seven.

CDC urges no domestic travel in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

Following Trump’s decision not to propose a quarantine over New York and neighbouring states, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a warning against non-essential travel in the region instead.

“Due to extensive community transmission of Covid-19 in the area, CDC urges residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately,” said the warning issued late on Saturday, local time.

It said employees of trucking, food supply, financial services and some other industries were exempt from the measure, and governors of the three states had full discretion over how to carry out the advisory.

The first of up to 10 flights to be sent to China to pick up medical equipment for Ireland is on its way back.

More than €225m had been spent on personal protective equipment for Irish health workers, said the minister for health, Simon Harris. Usually around €15m is spent in a year.

Ireland’s Health Service Executive would begin distributing around €20m worth of equipment from Sunday, after warnings that stocks were running low.

One group of doctors told the Irish Times they had procured €6,000 worth of PPE on their own after losing patience with the HSE.

Jim Dolan, the owner of NBA team the New York Knicks, has tested positive for Covid-19.

Summary

Here’s a quick look at the biggest developments today:

  • More than 30,000 people have died after contracting Covid-19, from more than 660,700 confirmed cases.
  • The coronavirus death toll in France has passed the grim milestone of 2,000 deaths, with more than 38,000 cases, and the US has reported more than 120,000 cases.
  • New Zealand reported its first death on Sunday.
  • Spain, Northern Ireland, and Timor-Leste are among countries to introduce new waves of restrictions.
  • US president Donald Trump earlier proposed an enforced regional quarantine on the state of New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut, prompting an angry rebuke from NY governor Andrew Cuomo. Trump later said quarantine would not be necessary and he had asked the CDC to instead issue a serious travel warning for the areas.
  • UK prime minister Boris Johnson, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 yesterday, has warned British households that the virus epidemic will get worse before it gets better.
  • The Zandam cruise ship, which has hundreds of passengers on board including at least 130 with flu-like symptoms, has been granted passage through the Panama Canal. Four people on the ship have died and two of those with symptoms have been diagnosed with Covid-19.
  • And Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, wife of the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, said she has recovered from Covid-19. Her husband and their three children have been in isolation and haven’t shown symptoms.
  • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliff, the British-Iranian aid worker who has been detained in Iran on spying charges has had her prison leave extended and her case put forward for clemency, her husband said

South Korea has reported 105 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the country’s total to 9,583, the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said on Sunday.

Virus prevention measures took a violent turn in parts of Africa over the weekend. Read a full report from Jason Burke here, and below are some images which have come through, with details from AP.

In Kenya, police fired tear gas at a crowd of ferry commuters as the country’s first day of a coronavirus curfew slid into chaos.

“We were horrified by excessive use of police force ahead of the curfew that began Friday night,” Amnesty International Kenya and 19 other human rights groups said in a statement issued Saturday.

The tear gas caused hundreds of people trying to reach a ferry in the port city of Mombasa ahead of the overnight curfew to touch their faces as they vomited, spat and wiped away tears, increasing the chance of the virus spread, the rights groups said.

Ferry passengers flee from police firing tear gas, after new measures aimed at halting the spread of the new coronavirus instead caused a crowd to form outside the ferry in Mombasa, Kenya Friday, March 27, 2020. The new measures required public transport vehicles to drop passengers 1km away and walk to the ferry terminal and then queue, but passengers fearing they would get stuck before a 7pm curfew started crowding to get on causing police to fire tear gas and round up the passengers.
Ferry passengers flee from police firing tear gas, after new measures aimed at halting the spread of the new coronavirus instead caused a crowd to form outside the ferry in Mombasa, Kenya Friday, March 27, 2020. The new measures required public transport vehicles to drop passengers 1km away and walk to the ferry terminal and then queue, but passengers fearing they would get stuck before a 7pm curfew started crowding to get on causing police to fire tear gas and round up the passengers. Photograph: AP
Kenyan police hold back ferry passengers after new measures aimed at halting the spread of the new coronavirus instead caused a crowd to form outside the ferry in Mombasa, Kenya Friday, March 27, 2020. The new measures required public transport vehicles to drop passengers 1km away and walk to the ferry terminal and then queue, but passengers fearing they would get stuck before a 7pm curfew started crowding to get on causing police to fire tear gas and round up the passengers. (AP Photo)
Kenyan police hold back ferry passengers after new measures aimed at halting the spread of the new coronavirus instead caused a crowd to form outside the ferry in Mombasa, Kenya Friday, March 27, 2020. The new measures required public transport vehicles to drop passengers 1km away and walk to the ferry terminal and then queue, but passengers fearing they would get stuck before a 7pm curfew started crowding to get on causing police to fire tear gas and round up the passengers. (AP Photo) Photograph: AP

In an apparent show of force on Saturday, South Africa’s military raided a large workers’ hostel in the Alexandra township where some residents had defied the lockdown.

South African National Defense Forces patrol the Men’s Hostel in the densely populated Alexandra township east of Johannesburg, Saturday, March 28, 2020, enforcing a strict lockdown in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus.
South African National Defense Forces patrol the Men’s Hostel in the densely populated Alexandra township east of Johannesburg, Saturday, March 28, 2020, enforcing a strict lockdown in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus. Photograph: Jérôme Delay/AP

From Reuters:

Thousands of African, Haitian and Asian migrants bound for the United States have amassed in immigration shelters in Panama and Costa Rica as plans to relocate them to less crowded areas to lower the risk of spreading the coronavirus have faltered.

Earlier this week, Costa Rica’s government said it had begun transferring about 2,600 migrants headed for the United States from its southern border with Panama to its frontier with Nicaragua, citing concerns that large crowds could further spread the virus.

However, the head of Costa Rica’s immigration office, Raquel Vargas, told Reuters on Saturday that the transfer was suspended until further notice.

“We must find a solution,” Vargas said after Nicaragua decided to send its military to its southern border.

Vargas said the transfer of the first group of migrants in coordination with Panama was “very successful,” but that under the current circumstances more people could not be moved.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife said Saturday that she has recovered from being ill from COVID-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus.

“I am feeling so much better,” Sophie Gregoire Trudeau said in a statement on social media.

She said she received the clearance from her doctor and Ottawa Public Health.
Trudeau’s office announced on 12 March that she had tested positive for the coronavirus after she fell ill upon returning from a trip to London.

The prime minister and his family have been in self isolation at home since then. He and their three children didn’t show symptoms.

Timor-Leste has declared a state of emergency as part of its efforts to “contain the pandemic, save lives and ensure the subsistence of supply chains of essential goods and services for our population”.

The declaration by the presidency of the council of ministers said they were taking the action “even though they may limit some fundamental rights and freedoms”

“These measures are taken with respect for constitutional limits and following the guidelines of the World Health Organisation and the example of other States.”

The state of emergency came into place on Sunday, and will run until at least 26 April.

Timor-Leste is one of the world’s poorest nations, with around 40% of people living below the poverty line.

The government has authorised the transfer of $100m from its petroleum fund to fund emergency measures and the purchase of medical supplies.

  • Foreigners are prohibited from entering the country, except for foreigners born in Timor-Leste, resident citizens and legal representatives of minors of Timorese nationality. The restriction doesn’t apply to oil rig workers in the Timor Sea. Anyone entering the country must quarantine for 14 days.
  • Commercial and service establishments, markets and street vendors are allowed, but public transport will cease.
  • Everyone must wear masks when entering commercial or servicing venues, and maintain hygiene and social distancing.
  • All school activities are suspended on a face-to-face basis and the facilities of educational, education and vocational training establishments are closed. Teachers and students are prohibited from staying in the premises.
  • Distance learning should be promoted through the means of information and communication in this period.
  • Licences, authorisations, visas and residence permits, and other administrative acts and documents will remain valid regardless of expiry dates.

In Argentina, Uki Goñi reports some optimism.

Authorities are hopeful that Argentina may have imposed its nationwide lockdown early enough to avoid the kind of difficult scenarios seen in the US or Europe. The country added only 55 new cases of coronavirus and two deaths to its toll Saturday, bringing the total to 745 cases and 19 deaths so far, a sharp drop from the 101 cases Friday.

“The spike is moving to May and we are hoping it won’t be abrupt,” said health minister Ginés González García.

The lockdown was declared on March 20 when there were only 128 cases and three deaths reported.

The government’s deepest concern regarding the spread of the virus is the Greater Buenos Aires area around the capital city of buenos Aires, with a population of over 12 million people.

Some 21% of the GBA live in shanty towns, most of them without access to running water, nearly half of whom sleep more than three to a room. Unemployment is over 10% and 40% of the employed are informal workers without benefits.

“The quarantine is a dramatic situation for people in vulnerable situations,” said Agustín Salvia of the Social Observatory of the Catholic University of Buenos Aires, which provides the most reliable statistics on poverty in Argentina.

The quarantine has had one unexpected consequence, according to pharmacists, a shortage of Viagra, after the stock for March sold out early.

“There was an unexpected consumption,” said Marcelo Peretta, head of the Argentine Union of Pharmacists, who blamed the free time at home by the imposed quarantine for the run on the erectile dysfunction drug.

“We had to limit the amount sold per person, we never thought we’d sell this much Viagra.”

Further details on the first Covid-19 related death in New Zealand.

The woman, who authorities said had underlying health conditions, was reportedly diagnosed with influenza on admittance to hospital.

New Zealand health officials confirmed new 63 cases on Sunday – a drop from the increase of the previous two days – with the overall number of coronavirus cases standing at 514, said the director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield. Nine were receiving hospital care and one other was in intensive care on a ventilator.

From Reuters:

Mexico’s deputy health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell called on Saturday on all residents in Mexico to stay at home for a month, saying it was the only way to reduce the transmission rate of the coronavirus.

Mexican health authorities said there was a total of 848 confirmed cases in Mexico as of Saturday, 131 more than the previous day, and 16 deaths.

President Donald Trump will send off a naval hospital ship Saturday before it heads to New York City, as he aims to highlight the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The USNS Comfort, a 1,000-bed hospital ship, had been undergoing planned maintenance, but was rushed back into service to aid the city which is now the centre of the nation’s outbreak.

It is scheduled to arrive Monday at a Manhattan pier a week after its sister ship, the USNS Mercy arrived in Los Angeles to preform similar duty on the West Coast.

Trump, 73, is in a high-risk category because of his age, and federal guidance for weeks has advised those in that pool to refrain from non-essential travel of all sorts. He has already tested negative once after close contact with officials who came down with the virus.

“It doesn’t mean I’m going to be hugging people and it doesn’t mean that I’m going to be shaking people’s hands and everything,” Trump said.

“But I think it sends a signal when the president is able to go there and say thank you. So, you know, we’ll be careful.”

handout photo made available by the Navy Office of Information shows people gather to watch the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) depart Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, USA, 28 March 2020. Comfort is deploying in support of the nation’s Covid-19 response efforts and will serve as a referral hospital for non-Covid-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals. This allows shore-based hospitals to focus their efforts on Covid-19 cases.
handout photo made available by the Navy Office of Information shows people gather to watch the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) depart Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, USA, 28 March 2020. Comfort is deploying in support of the nation’s Covid-19 response efforts and will serve as a referral hospital for non-Covid-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals. This allows shore-based hospitals to focus their efforts on Covid-19 cases. Photograph: Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Sheppard/Navy Office of Informa/EPA

China reported 45 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for 28 March, down from 54 on the previous day, Reuters reports.

All but one involved travelers from overseas, the country’s health authority said on Sunday.

The reported number of imported cases also fell from 54 on the previous day, data from the National Health Commission showed.

China also reported five new deaths on Saturday, all of which were in Wuhan in Hubei province, where the Covid-19 respiratory illness was first identified. A total of 3,300 people have now died in mainland China, with a reported 81,439 infections.

Saturday marked the fourth consecutive day that Hubei province recorded no new confirmed cases. With traffic restrictions in the province lifted, Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, is also gradually reopening borders and restarting some local transportation services.

The only domestic transmission on Saturday was recorded in central China’s Henan province, which borders Hubei.

Updated

Still in Australia, a 75-year-old Queensland woman, who had been on board the Ruby Princess cruise ship, has died overnight.

A man aged in his 80s also died in a Melbourne hospital overnight.

The deaths bring Australia’s toll to 16.

For more details on this and Morrison’s press conference, follow our Australia-focussed blog here.

Australian authorities are giving an update of the situation there.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia’s daily rate of increase in cases had dropped from between 25-30% to 13-15%.

Morrison says this shows the government’s containment measures (which have caused some confusion among Australians with some very specific limits like a maximum 30 minutes at a hairdresser, only five people at a wedding, but 10 people at a bootcamp or funeral), are working.

But the government will not release modelling to show this.

Morrison pushes back on questions about adopting tactics used by other countries.

He says they won’t “cut and paste measures from other places where they have completely different societies”.

He cites Chinese authorities welding people’s doors shut, suggesting that maybe people were “OK with that”.

Morrison has told media that of the country’s 3,809 confirmed cases, 2,562 were imported from overseas.

First New Zealand death

New Zealand, which is a few days into a lockdown lasting at least four weeks, has reported the first death attributed to Covid-19.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the West Coast woman was in her 70s, and was initially diagnosed with influenza. Because of this hospital staff were only wearing PPE suitable for a case of influenza, not Covid-19, and 21 people were now in self-isolation. Bloomfield said none of the staff were showing symptoms, and staffing at the hospital wouldn’t be affected because of the cancellation of all elective procedures.

New Zealand has 514 cases, most with a link to international travel.

“Today’s death is the reminder of the fight that we have on our hands,” prime minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“Stay at home, break the chain, and save lives.”

Trump withdraws quarantine proposal

Donald Trump has now said there will be no need to enforce a regional quarantine on New York and neighbouring states.

A few minutes ago the president tweeted that he would instead have the CDC issue “a strong travel advisory”.

US president Donald Trump has flagged an enforced regional quarantine of the state of New York, and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey.

“We’re thinking about certain things. Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hotspot,” he said.

“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. This would be an enforceable quarantine. I’d rather not do it, but maybe we need it.”

But New York governor Andrew Cuomo says it wasn’t mentioned when they spoke, and he’s said such a move would be “a federal declaration of war”.

Why you would want to just create total pandemonium on top of a pandemic I have no idea,” Cuomo said.

“It’s totally opposite with what the president would want to do, work with the states, get the economy running and get some sense of stability. You wouldn’t at this point literally fracture the entire nation because it’s not just New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, it’s Louisiana and New Orleans. The numbers will continue to rise and every few days it’s going to be another hotspot.”

He added: “It would be chaos and mayhem. If we start walling off areas all across the country it would just be totally bizarre, counterproductive, anti-American, anti-social.”

Read more here.

Welcome to our continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to colleagues in the UK for running the last day’s coverage, which you can catch up on here.

If you have questions, comments, or contributions, you can reach me on Twitter @heldavidson

In the meantime, here are the latest updates:

  • The global death toll has passed 30,000, with confirmed cases at 660,706.
  • Northern Ireland has announced a wave of new restrictive measures which came into force an hour ago, including a ban on gatherings and leaving home without a reasonable excuse.
  • Spain has announced further restrictions on movement to stem the flow of the virus, with all non-essential workers being told to stay home.
  • Panama’s government has said it will allow the Zaandam cruise ship to pass through the Panama Canal, after passengers got stuck on board when authorities refused to grant access. The cruise ship has 130 people with flu-like symptoms, and four have died. At least two of those with symptoms are confirmed to have coronavirus.
  • The coronavirus death toll in France has passed the grim milestone of 2,000 deaths, with more than 38,000 cases.
  • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliff, the British-Iranian aid worker who has been detained in Iran on spying charges has had her prison leave extended and her case put forward for clemency, her husband said
  • Cases in the US have passed 120,000.
  • A letter from UK prime minister Boris Johnson will be sent to every household in Britain, warning them that the worst of the virus is yet to come.
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