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Staff from a cleaning company arrive at Parkside Community Primary School in Borehamwood as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Boreham Wood, Britain, March 18, 2020. - Sputnik International

Live Updates: Nations Remain on Lockdown as Coronavirus Cases Top 191,000 Globally

Over 15,100 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) globally over the past day, bringing the total number of confirmed cases above 191,100, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in its latest report.

According to the World Health Organisation, which declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on 11 March, 191,127 cases have been confirmed worldwide, with 15,123 new ones over the past 24 hours.

The virus has already put entire cities on lockdown, led to travel restrictions, and forced the cancellation of big events such as the Eurovision Song Contest, and the Coachella as well as Glastonbury music festivals.

The novel coronavirus, now officially named COVID-19, was first registered in December 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The virus quickly spread to other countries around the globe, with Italy becoming the worst affected nation in Europe.

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01:29 GMT 20.03.2020

The country earlier reported a total of 118 cases of COVID-19.

01:10 GMT 20.03.2020

The death toll has risen from 91 to 94 within the same period of time, according to the Health Ministry's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The majority of new COVID-19 cases – 34 out of 87 – has been registered in the city of Daegu, while 17 more in the capital of Seoul, 14 others in the province of Gyeonggi and 13 in the province of North Gyeongsang. The number of recovered people has risen by 268 to 2,233.

00:42 GMT 20.03.2020
00:36 GMT 20.03.2020

A total of 13,680 cases of COVID-19 have been registered in the United States.

The State of Washington has the highest number of fatalities - 74, followed by New York State, where 34 people have died from the new coronavirus.

23:30 GMT 19.03.2020

The country earlier reported 109 cases of COVID-19.

23:28 GMT 19.03.2020

"The ministry regrets to say that today [on Thursday] the first death because of the coronavirus was registered at 15:00 [10:00 GMT]", the Ministry of Health wrote on its Twitter page on Thursday.

The deceased patient is a 78-year-old, who had been hospitalised on Tuesday over respiratory problems and also suffered from hypertension.

Peru has currently confirmed 234 cases of COVID-19 so far.

23:10 GMT 19.03.2020

The total number of fatalities has risen to 74, which is the highest death toll from the virus in the United States.

23:04 GMT 19.03.2020

The new measure was announced in the state official bulletin.

22:02 GMT 19.03.2020

Additional cases were registered in Chernivtsi, the health ministry said on its official Facebook page.

21:24 GMT 19.03.2020

"Due to public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, effective 20 March 2020, we are only able to offer service for customers with a qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours", the State Department said.

The State Department explained that life-or-death emergencies include serious illnesses, injuries or deaths in the immediate family that require traveling abroad within 72 hours.

20:49 GMT 19.03.2020

The country announced a state of emergency, restricting movement to essential persons with written authorisation over fears of the COVID-19 spread.

20:31 GMT 19.03.2020
20:26 GMT 19.03.2020

Niger has registered its first case of the new coronavirus disease, media reported on Thursday, citing the Health Ministry of the Western African country.

The patient is reportedly a 36-year-old Nigerien man who has recently travelled to Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.

20:24 GMT 19.03.2020

"As of 20:00 [18:00 GMT] of March 19, 21 COVID-19 cases were confirmed. The data by virological reference laboratory of the Center for Public Health of Ukraine showed that 17 tests for COVID-19 were positive: 10 in Chernivtsi, one in Zhytomyr, two in Kiev, one in Donetsk, one in Ivano-Frankivsk regions and two in Kiev city. Research by regional laboratories revealed two cases in Dnepropetrovsk, one in Zhytomyr and one more in Kiev", the Center for Public Health of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine said on Thursday.

20:18 GMT 19.03.2020

"It is my duty to inform you that the Government of New Brunswick is declaring a state of emergency today under the Emergency Measures Act", Higgs said at a press conference.

The premier said that an excess of residents not following or deliberately ignoring the advice of public health officials compelled the province to take such strong action.

So far, the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan and now New Brunswick have declared a state of emergency, while Alberta, Quebec and Prince Edward Island (PEI) have declared a state of public health emergency, as Canada struggles to contain the spread of the disease.

20:05 GMT 19.03.2020
19:29 GMT 19.03.2020

"All mosques will be closed tomorrow as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19, and Friday prayers will not be performed", the president of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, Ali Erbas, said on Thursday.

On Monday, Turkey suspended collective prayers in mosques due to the situation with coronavirus, while individual prayers remained permitted.

19:12 GMT 19.03.2020

Those who violate the quarantine regime will be fined, Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu said. The quarantine will last for a week.

"Today I signed several emergency decrees. They come into effect as of tonight. Among other things, a movement restriction is introduced. You, citizens of Israel, are required to stay home. This is not a request, not a recommendation, it is an obligation that is binding. I know that it will be difficult, but I expect cooperation from you. It’s about saving lives", Netanyahu said said in a video address to the nation broadcast by Israeli television channels.

He stressed that everyone remains at home except those whose work is permitted in emergency situations.

19:08 GMT 19.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - An employee of a subsidiary of Russia nuclear energy company Rosatom, Turbine Technology AAEM, has tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from holidays abroad, a Rosatom representative said.

"An employee of our Turbine Technology AAEM subsidiary, located in St. Petersburg, was diagnosed with coronavirus after visiting a foreign country during her leave," the representative said, adding that the woman was isolated and being treated in a hospital.

The Rosatom representative added that all employees who had contact with the patient had been quarantined and continued working remotely.

More than 200,000 people in about 160 countries have been infected with the COVID-19 virus, over 8,000 of whom have died. Russia has so far registered 199 cases.

19:07 GMT 19.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The death toll from alcohol poisoning in Iran's Khuzestan province has increased to 62, media reported on Thursday, citing paramedics.

Deaths of this nature have become common after false rumours emerged that toxic methanol could help treat or ward off the coronavirus disease.

The Mehr news agency reported, citing a spokesman for Ahvaz University of Medical Sciences, that three people had died from overdrinking in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 62. Thirteen others had asked for medical assistance, the spokesman added.

Earlier in March, media reported that 36 people had died of alcohol poisoning in Khuzestan, and 44 died in Fars province. Seven more deaths were registered in northern Alborz province, with local prosecutors linking the fatalities to the methanol cure rumours.

Alcohol is banned for Muslims in Iran, which is currently suffering from the biggest coronavirus outbreak after China and Italy. Iran has over 18,400 confirmed cases of infection, including nearly 1,300 fatalities. At the same time, nearly 6,000 people have recovered.

18:55 GMT 19.03.2020

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - A UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a release on Thursday that one of its employees working in New York has tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

"UN Medical Services advised us yesterday evening that one of our UNICEF New York colleagues has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19)," the release said. "Our colleague is in frequent contact with UN Medical Services and, thankfully, is recovering well."

On Friday, UNICEF said it has to close its headquarters building in New York for a period of one month after three employees developed flu-like symptoms but were not been confirmed as infected with the COVID-19.

New York State has confirmed 4,152 cases of infection with the COVID-19, with 1,339 cases in New York City alone.

The Centers or Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Thursday said that the COVID-19 death toll in the United States has reached 150 with an excess of 10,400 people confirmed positive for contracting the virus in all 54 states and territories.

18:54 GMT 19.03.2020

The French health authorities have reported 108 new deaths from Covid-19 on Thursday, taking the total to 372.  

18:32 GMT 19.03.2020

TORONTO (Sputnik) - Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne in a statement on Thursday said he is self-isolating while awaiting test results for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) disease after exhibiting flu-like symptoms following an overseas trip.

"Like many Canadians, I have been tested for COVID-19 out of an abundance of caution as I began experiencing new flu-like symptom less than 14 days after returning from abroad," Champagne said via Twitter. "I am currently self-isolating at home while I await my results very shortly."

18:31 GMT 19.03.2020

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US President Donald Trump on Thursday said the anti-malaria drug hidroxicloroquina could potentially be effective for treating coronavirus.

"It has shown very, very encouraging early results. We are going to be able to make this drug available almost immediately... by prescription," Trump said at a White House briefing. "There are a lot of reasons that I have to believe... that it could have a very positive effect."

He added that even if the drug proves ineffective it will not kill anyone unlike brand new medicine which side effects may be not clear immediately.

Trump promised to reduce as much red tape and hurdles as possible to expedite the development of coronavirus cure and testing existing remedies for treating the disease.

18:27 GMT 19.03.2020

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The death toll from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) disease in the United States has reached 150 with an excess of 10,400 people confirmed positive for contracting the virus in all 54 states and territories, the Centers or Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Thursday.

The CDC said 150 people have died from COVID-19, an increase of 35 on Wednesday's figure with the total number of cases rising to 10,442.

The Coronavirus Research Center at Johns Hopkins University put the total number of US deaths so far at 154 and said almost half - 68 - occurred in the northwestern state of Washington.

The CRC put the total number of confirmed cases in the United States at 10,755.

18:25 GMT 19.03.2020

GENOA (Sputnik), Anastasia Levchenko - Chinese medical specialists recommend that Italy enforce social distancing rules more stringently to effectively contain the spread of the coronavirus, Valerio Mogini, a doctor from the Italian Red Cross' biocontainment unit, said.

A team of 10 Chinese medical specialists has come to Italy with the assistance of the Chinese Red Cross. With nearly 33,200 confirmed cases, Italy is suffering from the biggest coronavirus outbreak outside of China. On Thursday, its death toll overtook the Chinese one, jumping to 3,405.

"They are suggesting that we be stricter on social distancing. In China social distancing measures were tougher than in Italy, and they really believe that this is the measure that can stop the spread," Mogini said.

He noted that the Chinese doctors in Italy met with their counterparts and local authorities to share their experience.

"It is great for us to see how they are donating their expertise, their time to help another country. This time of collaboration is something that is really in the spirit of the Red Cross and we are glad to see it once again," the Italian doctor stated.

What is more important, Mogini went on, Chinese doctors who have gone through the peak of the outbreak at home are "giving us hope."

Italy has been under quarantine since March 9. People have been asked to stay home and only go out for essential activities. All entertainment sites have been shut down, save for food stores and pharmacies. Public transport yet continues operating. Earlier on Thursday, one of the doctors from the team that arrived from China suggested that Italy "cut all the mobility" and halt public transportation.

18:24 GMT 19.03.2020

GENOA (Sputnik), Anastasia Levchenko - Italy’s northern regions, the worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak, are likely to see a peak of cases soon, while prospects for the south remain unclear, Valerio Mogini, a doctor from the Italian Red Cross’ biocontainment unit involved in the response since the onset of the outbreak, said.

On Wednesday, COVID-19 took 475 lives in Italy, which has been the highest one-day death toll for any country since the beginning of the epidemic. On Thursday, the number of fatalities rose by 427 to 3,405, surpassing the Chinese death toll, which stands at 3,245. In total, Italy has registered nearly 33,200 coronavirus cases.

"In my opinion, what we are going to face is a peak in northern Italy pretty soon, but it might be different in the rest of the country. The spread [of the disease] is going on, but now at least it will probably be slowed down by the containment and social distancing measures of the government," Mogini said.

According to the doctor, the current high mortality rate may be actually "consequences of what happened before the social distancing" was introduced.

"Those people who are now in the intensive care units, they were probably infected quite some time ago, so it means that probably they got infected before the measures and we still need time to see how the measures are working. You know, the virus takes about 5-15 days from the first contact to actually develop the symptoms, and when someone develops the symptoms, it takes probably one week before he or she needs intensive care unit," he explained.

Asked whether he believes that the south could avoid a situation similar to the one unfolding in the northern regions, he expressed hope for that but refrained from making projections.

"I think that we will have cases, but I hope that we are not going to face the same situation that we are facing in the north of Italy. This is our hope," Mogini stated.

Speaking about the problems that hospitals are confronting now, he highlighted the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors.

"The real problem is that so far it is pretty hard to buy and obtain personal protective equipment (PPE). Italian government is buying it from the Italian market, and they have started a program to make the industry produce more of PPEs," the medic said.

He noted that the problem was now common in virtually all countries in Europe and the world because the demand for this equipment was "absolutely overwhelming."

18:23 GMT 19.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The South African government said on Thursday that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country had increased to 150.

As of Wednesday, the number of those infected in the country stood at 116. No fatal cases have been registered so far.

"South Africa now has 150 confirmed cases of #Covid19. 34 new cases have been confirmed," the government said on Twitter.

On March 15, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of emergency over the COVID-19 concerns. Also, starting Wednesday, South Africa prohibited the entry to foreign citizens coming from countries that are highly afflicted by the pandemic, such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, China, and Germany. South African nationals are discouraged from visiting those countries as well.

According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 222,000 cases of COVID-19 infection worldwide have been confirmed, including over 9,000 fatalities and more than 84,000 recoveries.

18:22 GMT 19.03.2020

TEL AVIV (Sputnik) - Israeli police on Thursday suppressed a protest outside the parliament building in Jerusalem, where people had gathered to condemn the strict quarantine measures aimed at preventing the further spread of COVID-19, and arrested three activists, police spokesman Mikhael Zingerman said.

Earlier in the day, a convoy of 100 cars filled with protesters attempted to enter Jerusalem to protest the quarantine. The vehicles were stopped and nearly all drivers fined, according to Zingerman. Later, some 200 protesters gathered outside the parliament building. The police quickly responded, guided by the new recommendations of the Health Ministry that ban meetings of more than 10 people in one place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Approximately 200 people gathered in the Knesset area and thus violated the order of the Ministry of Health. Three suspects who violated public order and tried to block roads and highways near the parliament building were arrested," Zingerman said.

The presence of law enforcement in the center of Jerusalem has increased to prevent riots, the police spokesman added.

"Of course, the Israeli police are obliged to allow democratic expression of feelings and opinions, but in light of the current circumstances, everything necessary will be done to ensure that the instructions of the Ministry of Health are implemented," Zingerman said.

On Wednesday, Israel shut its borders to all foreigners in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured the public that putting the country on total lockdown was not being considered.

While the number of confirmed infection cases in Israel nears 530, Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov warned that it would spike in the coming days.

18:07 GMT 19.03.2020

LONDON (Sputnik) - The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is likely to struggle with managing the surge in patients who will test positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), given that the institution has suffered during a decade of austerity characterized by overcapacity, staff shortages, and government inaction, co-chair of the Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) non-profit organization Dr John Puntis said on Friday.

"The NHS is not in such a good position as it could have been, so one would say over the last ten years it's been hit by austerity and there are some very clear indications of that in terms of there being 17,000 fewer hospital beds, 100,000 staff vacancies and 40,000 fewer nurses. There hasn't been the investment there should have been," Puntis said.

The KONP co-chair went on to argue that staff within the health service had become increasingly anxious about their own vulnerability to COVID-19, claiming there was an immediate need to ensure that health sector workers receive protective clothing. If that was not done, he said, the already evident strain on the NHS would only get worse, ultimately compounding the issue as the UK struggles to deal with the outbreak.

"The NHS, before the virus even, all the performance figures show deterioration in terms of A&E [Accident and Emergency] targets, waiting lists, trolley waits in A&E … they all get worse, and that reflects the relatively poor state of affairs. Staff are panicking about risk because of inadequate provision of protective clothing. If we don't protect front line health workers, including ambulance staff and paramedics, if they get sick that compounds the strain on the service very considerably," Puntis stated.

Previous government proposals to pay private manufacturers to construct additional ventilators for intensive care units were also questioned, given it would necessarily involve companies employing staff and resources that had previously not been used to produce medical equipment.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson had claimed earlier this week that the prime minister would be speaking to British manufacturers about the possibility of creating additional ventilators for the NHS, with Honda and Vauxhall having allegedly been asked to help.

Such policies would not necessarily be as simple as they appear, Puntis claimed, especially as the NHS was already undermanned in terms of properly trained staff with experience in operating the kind of equipment now needed.

"Getting more ventilators is only part of the solution. The flippant remark is that we get more ventilators and train doctors on how to use them ... this is the point where you need properly trained nursing staff. Although they have put the invitation out to manufacturing to switch to producing ventilators, it's been pointed out that medical equipment has to be made to very high standards so it's not necessarily that simple," he argued.

The NHS also faces severe overcapacity issues, evident after a letter from NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens was made public on Tuesday. Stevens called on hospitals to cancel all non-urgent surgeries for three months from April 15, in order to free up approximately 30,000 beds for potential COVID-19 patients.

"The other thing is that bed occupancy in the NHS has been running at over 95 percent and normally intensive care is pretty full too, so it's not like there's a lot of empty space just waiting for patients to come in," Puntis stated.

The NHS, itself always a hot topic at election time, has come under ever-increasing scrutiny following the emergence of the coronavirus disease in the UK. Campaigners and opposition politicians have persistently criticized the government over what they see as a persistent inability to handle the UK's health needs, a point demonstrated by a glaring bed shortage that has already seen the loss of some 17,000 hospital beds ever since the Conservative Party regained office in 2010.

Such capacity issues alongside a reduction in staffing levels would appear to indicate that the UK remains ill-equipped to deal with COVID-19 in the event it continues to spread, a sentiment shared by Puntis who stated that the current situation in the UK was already a crisis.

"Everyone accepts we're now in a crisis because of this new disease that's quite a lot more virulent than seasonal influenza. It's much bigger than that. It's already having an extraordinary, devastating effect on public life," the non-profit co-chair stated.

As of Thursday, a total of 137 people are believed to have died after contracting COVID-19 in the UK, with the government rushing to fast track emergency legislation to contain any further spread, including measures to close schools, grant police additional powers to detain those suspected of carrying the disease and restrict or outright ban public gatherings.

18:06 GMT 19.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Three races of the Formula 1 championship — the Grand Prix of the Netherlands, the Grand Prix of Spain and the Grand Prix of Monaco — will be postponed due to the coronavirus, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) said on Thursday.

"In view of the continued global spread of COVID-19 and after ongoing discussions with Formula 1 and the three promoters, it has today been confirmed that the Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix 2020, Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix 2020 and Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix 2020 will be postponed," the FIA said.

The FIA ​​and Formula 1 continue to work closely with promoters and local authorities to monitor the situation and continue to consider alternative dates for each grand prix at the end of the year, it said.

The 2020 season is expected to start after May, as soon as it is safe, the FIA added.

Earlier, Formula 1 cancelled the race in Australia and postponed races in Bahrain, Vietnam and China due to the situation with coronavirus. The Dutch Grand Prix was scheduled for May 1-3, the Spanish Grand Prix for May 8-10, and the Monaco Grand Prix for May 21-24.

17:55 GMT 19.03.2020

"At the moment, the disease is proceeding in a way that does not seem yet to be responding to our interventions... I believe that a combination of the measures that we're asking the public to take and better testing, scientific progress, will enable us to get on top of it within the next 12 weeks... I cannot stand here and tell you that by the end of June we will be on a downward slope. It's possible but I simply can't say that that's for certain," Johnson told journalists, as quoted by Reuters. 

As of 19 March, there were 3,269 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, with 144 deaths.

17:26 GMT 19.03.2020

UNITED NATIONS (Sputnik) - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is the most severe health crisis in the history of the United Nations and is certain to lead to a global recession of potentially record levels.

"We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations - one that is spreading human suffering, infecting the global economy and upending people’s lives," Guterres said in a statement. "A global recession - perhaps of record dimensions - is a near certainty."

17:20 GMT 19.03.2020

ROME (Sputnik) - The death toll from coronavirus infection in Italy rose by 427 in past 24 hours to a total of 3,405 people, while the total number of COVID-19 cases increased by almost 4,500 during the same period, Angelo Borrelli, the head of the National Civil Protection Agency, said Thursday.

“Unfortunately, today we recorded 427 deaths,” Borrelli said at a briefing, adding that the total number of coronavirus cases in the country had surpassed 41,000.

In terms of the number of victims, Italy has surpassed China as the Chinese state committee on healthcare reported earlier on Thursday that 3,245 people had so far become coronavirus victims in the country.

17:08 GMT 19.03.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), initially set to take place in Vietnam in April, has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, state media said on Thursday, citing Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

According to VNA, Nguyen informed the ASEAN member states and New Zealand about plans to postpone the 36th summit, ASEAN-New Zealand Summit and other meetings until the end of June.

The summit was scheduled for April 6-9 in Da Nang, as Vietnam is the ASEAN chair in 2020.

To date, Vietnam has confirmed 76 COVID-19 cases.

17:07 GMT 19.03.2020

BERLIN (Sputnik) - Berlin's main festive event for celebrating the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II has been cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic, a source in the organizing committee said on Thursday.

"We have been forced to cancel the event due to the developments of the coronavirus situation," the source said.

The celebrations were due to be held in Berlin on May 8, with the participation of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, other officials and foreign guests.

17:05 GMT 19.03.2020

TORONTO (Sputnik) - The number of confirmed cases of infection with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Canada is approaching 800 and the death toll has increased to nine, Canada’s Chief Medical Officer Theresa Tam said during a press briefing on Thursday.

"In Canada, as of now, there are 772 cases and nine deaths of COVID-19," Tam told reporters.

Tam also said that more than 55,000 Canadians have been tested for the disease.

According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 222,000 cases of COVID-19 infections worldwide have been confirmed, including over 9,000 fatalities and more than 84,000 recoveries.

The epicentre of the pandemic has now shifted from China to Europe, where the total number of infected individuals has surpassed 80,000.

16:58 GMT 19.03.2020
16:54 GMT 19.03.2020

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The US state of New Jersey has registered 318 new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and four additional deaths since yesterday, Governor Phil Murphy said on Thursday.

"We've 318 new positive test results since yesterday, bringing our statewide total to 742," Murphy said via Twitter. "Sadly, we have four additional deaths."

16:50 GMT 19.03.2020
16:45 GMT 19.03.2020

The coronavirus pandemic is pushing Germany into a deep recession, and the country's economy may fall by 1.5-6 percent in 2020, the Munich-based ifo Institute for Economic Research said Thursday.

"One scenario under consideration at the ifo Institute is highly positive, with economic output of minus 1.5 percent for 2020. However, this takes only minor declines in industry production into account. In a second scenario, which assumes greater cutbacks in production, economic output shrinks by 6 percent," ifo President Clemens Fuest said, as quoted in the institute's press release.

In its previous forecast in December 2019, ifo expected 1.1 percent GDP growth in 2020.

To mitigate the impact of the crisis, the institute proposed the suspension of all taxes for small- and medium-sized businesses for several months, and additional help to workers who are losing income due to unpaid leave. Support for liquidity and government guarantees can prevent a wave of bankruptcies, it said.

The Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) is even more pessimistic, predicting that the German economy may shrink 4.5-9 percent this year.

The 4.5 percent GDP drop may be expected if the current coronavirus situation lasts until the end of April. If recovery only happens in August, the GDP will fall 8.7 percent, the IfW said.

16:37 GMT 19.03.2020

The UK government must take steps to provide tax relief for manufacturers in order to prevent widespread job losses amid the economic disruption caused by the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, the MAKE UK manufacturers union said in a statement on Thursday.

"There are alarm bells going off right across the manufacturing sector with the prospect of substantial lay-offs looming. Order books are collapsing and this is creating immediate cashflow issues for companies which need addressing within days not weeks," the union’s chief executive Stephen Phipson said in the statement.

MAKE UK is urging the government to defer value-added tax (VAT), pay-as-you-earn tax (PAYE) and all national insurance contributions, as well as financial support to pay employees who have been forced to self-isolate.

The union added that even before the COVID-19 outbreak, economic results for the first quarter of 2020 showed that both domestic and foreign orders had significantly slumped, placing manufacturers in an increasingly precarious position.

16:36 GMT 19.03.2020

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Netherlands has increased by 409 to 2,460 over the past 24 hours, while the number of fatalities has grown to 76, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said on Thursday.

As of Wednesday, there were 2,051 confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands.

"Since yesterday, 409 people have tested positive for COVID-19. Thus, the total number of those infected has reached 2,460," the institute said.

The number of coronavirus-related fatalities went up by 18. Most patients died were aged between 63 and 95.

16:34 GMT 19.03.2020

Dutch medical care minister Bruno Bruins has resigned after he fell down on the floor of parliament due to exhaustion on Wednesday evening.

Dutch Minister Bruno Bruins for Medical Care (VVD) speaks during a debate about the developments surrounding the coronavirus, in The Hague, the Netherlands, on March 18, 2020.  - Sputnik International
Watch Dutch Health Minister Bruno Bruins Collapse in Parliament During Coronavirus Debate
16:33 GMT 19.03.2020

The number of confirmed cases of infection with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Canada is approaching 800 and the death toll has increased to nine, Canada’s Chief Medical Officer Theresa Tam said during a press briefing on Thursday.

"In Canada, as of now, there are 772 cases and nine deaths of COVID-19," Tam told reporters.

16:28 GMT 19.03.2020

“I would know because I would have to authorize those actions legally. It's not going to happen,” Cuomo said. “I’m not doing it.”

On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that a shelter-in-place order might be imposed for the city over the next 48 hours to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

However, Cuomo said it is essential at present to ensure that services and society remain healthy and functional.

“We need the health care system up and running… We need police. We need fire[men]. We need bus drivers. We need daycare workers. We need a transportation system. All these functions have to continue,” Cuomo said.

The governor said in an attempt to slow down the COVID-19 spread he ordered allowing no more than 25 percent of employees to come to work in New York State.

“As a mandate, 75 percent of your employee base must work from home,” Cuomo said in an appeal to businesses.

16:25 GMT 19.03.2020
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16:20 GMT 19.03.2020

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the US could use cruise ships in addition to military vessels if more hospital beds are needed.

16:18 GMT 19.03.2020

Brazilian authorities have decided to restrict the entry of foreign visitors at land borders with Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Suriname and French Guiana amid the coronavirus pandemic.

16:16 GMT 19.03.2020

Chemists at the Moscow State University (MSU) are set to roll out the production of DNA primers for express diagnostics of coronavirus to potentially cater millions of tests, the MSU press service said in a press release.

"The Moscow university's chemists are ready to launch a full-scale production of DNA primers for fast diagnostics of COVID-19 using test systems based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method," the statement read.

Such systems rely upon DNA-oligonucleotides (short fragments of DNA chains) which, according to MSU Chemistry Department Dean Stepan Kalmykov and Natural Compounds Chemistry Chair Head Aleksey Kopylov, can be easily integrated into the existing Russian-made tests.

The synthesis and purification of DNA-oligonucleotides, which the MSU said it had conducted in collaboration with chemists from the Russian Academy of Sciences, could help launch mass production right now and make quantities adequate enough to supply millions of tests.

16:15 GMT 19.03.2020

Genoa has deployed a hospital ship in the port in the centre of the city in order to decrease the burden on traditional hospitals by taking COVID-19 patients on the path to recovery or with mild symptoms, the governor of the Liguria region said Thursday.

A ferry belonging to the Grandi Navi Veloci operator was transformed into a hospital with 25 single rooms. However, it has the capacity of increasing the number of beds up to 400 in a short time.

"It was an extraordinary and valuable effort that we could do in a very short time. Every cabin was transformed into a single patient’s room with rubber floor and separate air circulation system, which is even better than what you can find in usual hospitals of general profile. There are also special passages for the personnel that provides food to avoid contamination zones, as well as all the necessary equipment to guarantee safe work of our doctors," governor Giovanni Toti said at the opening of the hospital ship.

16:14 GMT 19.03.2020

MADRID (Sputnik) - Spanish troops have been drafted in to disinfect public places in the country, such as airports, train stations and seaports, including those in the city of Barcelona, Chief of the Defense Staff Gen. Miguel Angel Villarroya said on Thursday during a virtual press conference.

"We will disinfect Barcelona’s port and airport," the chief of the defence staff stated.

Military personnel are working to disinfect public places not only on the Spanish mainland but also the airports of Tenerife and Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, he confirmed.

Bus stops, government offices, nursing homes and hospitals will also be disinfected by military personnel, Villarroya stated.

16:12 GMT 19.03.2020

"Six cases have tested positive," General Joseph Lengyel told reporters. "There are no plans to recall missions overseas at this moment. Those deployments are going ahead."

The commander said the US president could federalize the National Guard but there are no plans to do so as of yet.

Tens of thousands of US National Guard members could be activated as part of the emergency response to the COVID-19 outbreak, he added.

15:14 GMT 19.03.2020

Canada-US border restrictions designed to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) will likely come into effect on Friday night, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Thursday.

"My understanding is that the measures will probably come into place in the night between Friday and Saturday, so in about a day and a half," Trudeau said.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated on Thursday that a curfew will be put in place on 22 March from 7 am to 9pm. The senior official has called on people not to indulge in panic buying as the supply of essential items like food, milk and medicine won't stop.

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"To ensure the enforcement of citizens' rights and freedoms, and taking into consideration the situation around the spreading of the novel coronavirus infection, from March 19, 2020, foreign citizens will be able to prolong the duration of their temporary staying on the territory of the Russian Federation," the Russian Interior Ministry said in a statement.

To do this, the foreigners will have to come to a department of the Interior Ministry, located close to the location where they stay, and submit an application prepared in any format they choose.

"For those who have arrived in Russia with a visa, its duration will be extended. If the visa has already expired, the duration of temporary staying will be extended as well," the ministry said.

13:46 GMT 19.03.2020

The number of coronavirus infections in Iceland has climbed to 330, up from 247 the previous day, according to the country’s health ministry.

According to the authorities of Iceland, at present, 330 cases of COVID-19 infection have been recorded in the country. It is noted that most cases - 287 - were detected in the capital Reykjavik.

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The number of COVID-19 cases in Switzerland has approached 3,900, with the death toll standing at 33, the Federal Office of Public Health said on Thursday.

As of 1:00 p.m. local time (12:00 GMT), the total number of infections has reached 3,888, and 3,438 of them have their diagnosis confirmed twice.

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Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has urged the city’s residents to avoid all but essential travel on public transport in order to allow health care professionals and other critical workers to travel to work amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, at the same time as the city's transportation authority announced the indefinite closure of up to 40 London Underground stations from Friday.

"People should not be travelling, by any means, unless they really, really have to. Londoners should be avoiding social interaction unless absolutely necessary, and that means they should be avoiding using the transport network unless absolutely necessary," Khan said in a press release on Transport for London’s (TfL) official website.

The mayor urged the public to heed the calls to remain at home, in order to ensure that people working in vital professions can continue to travel to work safely.

"Frontline staff across our health and care service - as well as those ensuring Londoners stay safe and can access food and other essentials - should be commended for their hard work. We owe it to them to do whatever we can to help them do their jobs effectively," the mayor said.

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the United Kingdom, TfL announced a number of service limitations that will see up to 40 subway stations closed until further notice and a reduction in the number of buses and suburban trains in operation as part of measures to protect crucial workers.

"To make sure we can do that there will be a number of changes to the services we provide, including suspending the Night Tube and Night Overground, suspending the Waterloo & City line and closing some stations to ensure we can staff key locations," TfL’s Commissioner Mike Brown said in the release.

On Tuesday, Khan announced the cancellation of all planned events in Trafalgar Square, after the government issued an advisory warning against all public gatherings.

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Spain has registered a total of 17,147 coronavirus cases, the Health Ministry said Thursday, up from 13,700 cases a day earlier.

More than 160 people died in the last 24 hours, the authorities said.

More than 6,700 of the COVID-19 patients are in the Spanish capital of Madrid.

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The total increased to 10,999 cases while 20 patients died, according to the public health institute RKI website.

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The high mortality rate from the COVID-19 in Italy could be due to a large percentage of senior citizens in the population, Vice Minister of Health Pierpaolo Sileri told Sputnik.

Italy suffers from an abnormally high COVID-19 mortality rate of about 7 percent, with most of the people succumbing to the disease being over 80-years-old. For comparison, Spain currently has a COVID-19 mortality rate of approximately 4.5 percent, while France and Germany have mortality rates of about 2.2 percent and 0.26 percent, respectively.

"Yes, this might be linked to the average age of the Italian population ... The elderly over 80-years-old are 7 percent of the population," Sileri, himself infected with COVID-19, told Sputnik via email.

He stressed that the Italian healthcare system prioritizes elderly care, leading to a longer lifespan among citizens.

"But, obviously, with age comes the fragility of health, and the coronavirus complications become fatal," the vice minister said.

Italy is the leading European country when it comes to the spread of COVID-19, with more than 35,000 cases and a death toll nearing 3,000.

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Russia can handle the global coronavirus outbreak, there are no reasons to panic, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Thursday.

"Many people have just begun to realize how serious it is. But there are no reasons to panic, Russia has been successful in fighting epidemics inside the country and in the world. We will handle this threat," the prime minister said.

Most programs to prevent the spread of the coronavirus will be carried out this week, the prime minister stressed, adding that all relevant documents should be fast-tracked for government review and Mishustin's signature.

"Starting tomorrow, all restrictions over the supplies for the first necessity goods are suspended for one month, including at the customs. We are introducing a 'green corridor ' for importers and large retail chains on import of a number of goods," Mishustin said.

07:28 GMT 19.03.2020

"The 15-day period may be extended. If necessary, the government will re-conduct it," Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told Europe 1 radio station.

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has appealed to the World Health Organization (WHO) for assistance in combating the COVID-19 pandemic as the number of confirmed cases in the country approaches 40.

“We need support in two main areas. The first technical, scientific and medical consultations at the highest level to evaluate and monitor the implementation of the [mitigation] plan, as well as recommendations for additional measures. Secondly, we need support in accessing diagnostic tools," the president said in a telephone conversation with WHO Secretary General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus published on Twitter.

The president added that US sanctions are impeding Venezuela’s ability to import much needed medical supplies.

05:39 GMT 19.03.2020

The number of people with confirmed coronavirus infection in Brazil has risen to 428 and a total of four people died as of Thursday, the Brazilian Health Ministry said.

The previous latest statistics on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Brazil had 291 cases with one fatality.

According to the health ministry's post on Twitter, there are some 11,200 more suspected cases in the Latin American country at the moment.

05:30 GMT 19.03.2020

"We will no tolerate risk at our borders," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference.

05:05 GMT 19.03.2020

Mexico has registered its first death from the coronavirus, the Health Ministry said in a statement, adding that the deceased was a diabetic whose symptoms appeared last week.

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The first case of COVID-19 has been registered in Fiji, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said on Thursday, adding that the country decided to impose quarantine on the hit territory.

“In the early hours of this morning, Thursday, the 19th of March, Fiji confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19. This is an event we have expected and spent months preparing for – and it is an event we are dealing with decisively,” the prime minister said in a statement, as quoted by the FBC News media outlet.

The first patient was discovered and isolated in Greater Lautoka Area, according to Bainimarama.

“Basically, if you are living in the Greater Lautoka Area, you will now stay in the Greater Lautoka Area. If you do not live in Greater Lautoka Area, you cannot travel there, even if you work there,” the prime minister said.

The government of Fiji has also expanded the list of the nations that are subject to its border restrictions.

“From midnight tonight, our border restrictions on mainland China, Italy, Iran, Spain and South Korea will be extended to foreign nationals who have been present in the United States of America and all of Europe, including the United Kingdom, within 14 days of their intended travel to Fiji. Also from midnight, anyone entering Fiji from any overseas destination will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days, meaning they must stay in one place and avoid contact with others or going out in public as much as possible,” the prime minister added.

04:58 GMT 19.03.2020

The first case of COVID-19 has been registered in El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele said, adding that more people could be infected.

“This person, who had illegally entered the country, has been delivered to the Metapan hospital as a possible coronavirus patient and has already been isolated. He has come into contact with many people and we cannot rule out that they were infected,” the president said at a press conference on late Wednesday, adding that the patient had tested positive for COVID-19.

According to Bukele, El Salvador has tested 59 people for the coronavirus.

The Latin American country has already suspended air traffic for 15 days to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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