16th March 2020 – United Kingdom – 1,372 (+232) Cases ¦ 35 (+14) Deaths

11:51 ‘Challenging few months ahead’ for Scotland – Sturgeon

Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the next few months are likely to be “very challenging and unprecedented in our lifetimes”.

She said that the Scottish government will have saving lives and protecting the public as the priority.

Monday is the first day that the Scottish government’s advice to cancel mass gatherings for more than 500 people comes into effect. Ms Sturgeon said advice on smaller gatherings and whether to close schools was under constant review.

The Scottish government does not have the power to cancel events, but has called on organisers “to act responsibly”.

She added:

  • By the end of the week 1.2 million people in Scotland, through 200 GP practices, will be covered by a GP testing system usually used to track seasonal flu. It will now be used to test those with relevant symptoms in the areas involved to track how COVID-19 spreads and to try and pick up virus hotspots
  • The government intends to give daily briefings to the media to get information out to the public
  • While health is devolved, and while on occasion there might be slight differences in the differences in policy or the timing of policy between nations, she expects there to be a high degree of commonality as it is based on the same scientific advice.

11:43 Spanish death toll nears 300

Spain’s number of coronavirus cases has risen to 8,744, while 297 people have now died, according to Fernando Simon, the head of the country’s health emergency centre.

The previous tally was 7,753 cases on Sunday, with 288 fatalities

11:37 Protests outside Downing Street against UK strategy

Protesters wearing face masks and protective suits have been pictured outside Downing Street in London this morning.

The group, called Pause the System, says it wants the UK government to step up its measures against coronavirus.

Spokeswoman Kelly Waters told LBC Radio the UK should follow some other countries in closing schools, shutting non-essential businesses, and encouraging people not to go to work.

“Why should the UK be a guinea pig for the rest of the world,” she said.

11:25 Marine Le Pen self isolates

French far-right politician Marine Le Pen is self-isolating after meeting people who showed symptoms of coronavirus, BFM TV reports.

Last Thursday she also sat next to someone who recently tested positive.

She doesn’t have symptoms at the moment.

11:21 Londoners are steering clear of public transport, TfL says

Transport for London says passenger numbers were down on the tube last week by 19% and by 10% on buses.

TfL says it will need financial support from the government and that its best case scenario is that the coronavirus outbreak will cost it £500m.

11:16 Bavaria declared a disaster zone

For the first time in its modern history the whole of Bavaria has been declared a disaster zone, to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

It is Germany’s second-richest state and has a population of 13 million people. Such special measures previously only applied to stricken areas of Bavaria, for example during floods.

All schools and kindergartens are now shut in the state.

There has been a sharp rise in the numbers testing positive for Covid-19 in Bavaria: 886 cases by midday Sunday, which was 205 more cases in 24 hours. Four elderly people have died, DPA news agency reports.

People are still able to move around freely in the streets – unlike in some other parts of Europe.

But these measures are now being introduced:

  • From Tuesday, bars, cinemas and swimming pools are to close, along with non-essential businesses
  • Longer opening times for providers of food and essential goods, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, banks. They can stay open until 22:00 on weekdays, and 18:00 on Sundays.
  • Restaurants and cafes restricted to 06:00 to 15:00 openings, with customers kept well apart.

11:08 UK firefighters to cease ‘non-essential interactions’

Interactions between firefighters and the public should temporarily be “drastically scaled back”, the UK’s Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said.

Non-emergency work such as fire safety visits and inspections, school visits, and public meetings, should be temporarily suspended, it said.

“While the FBU fully supports public engagement and preventative work as essential to improve fire safety, these are exceptional circumstances,” FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said in a statement.

“As a core emergency service, firefighters and control staff need to be protected from infection as far as possible. When an emergency does happen, we need to ensure that firefighters are healthy and available in good number to respond,” he added.

10:51 More than 170 new cases in Belgium

Yesterday 172 people tested positive for the coronavirus in Belgium, taking the total number to 1,058.

There are currently 252 people hospitalised in Belgium, 53 of whom are in intensive care. Five people have now died, the latest being an 88-year-old.

10:47 Shares in Primark owner suspended

Shares in Primark owner Associated British Foods have been suspended, amid falling sales during the pandemic.

It comes after the discount clothing retailer said it had been forced to temporarily close stores which make up a third of its sales due to coronavirus,

The FTSE 100 – an index of leading companies listed in London – opened the week 9% down despite action by central banks.

10:41 Bahrain reports first coronavirus death

Bahrain has reported its first death from the new coronavirus disease.

The 65-year-old female Bahraini citizen, who had underlying health conditions, was also the first person to die as a result of Covid-19 in the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC).

The woman had been placed in isolation since returning from Iran via a third country last month, the health ministry said in a statement.

Bahrain has reported 214 cases of Covid-19. Many of them are linked to travel from Iran, where more than 13,900 people have been infected and 724 have died.

Bahrain and the other GCC states have taken measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Saudi Arabia closed public spaces and suspended most government operations on Sunday, while Kuwait largely went into lockdown over the weekend, closing all shopping malls except for those related to food and halted all commercial flights to and from the country.

10:25 Ikea sends 2,300 employees home from Swedish HQ

Ikea’s headquarters in Almhult, southern Sweden, is being closed for two days for a deep clean in order to prevent the coronavirus spreading within the company.

Several of the furniture giant’s 2,300 staff have reported flu-like symptoms and one has tested positive for the coronavirus after a holiday abroad, although they did not return to the office after the location.

Ikea stores remain open across Sweden.

Like the UK, the Nordic country has chosen not to shut shops, restaurants, bars or schools. But numerous major Swedish companies including Spotify, Ericsson and gaming giant King are asking employees to work from home as much as possible.

On Sunday, Scandinavian Airlines announced it would temporarily lay off up to 10,000 staff.

A third person died from the coronavirus in Sweden on Sunday. More than 990 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the country of around 10 million.

10:14 ‘It’s about being sensible’ – UK minister on advice for over-70s

A UK cabinet minister has been speaking more about possible measures related the over 70s.

On Sunday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested that those older than 70 will be told “within the coming weeks” to stay at home for an extended period

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that those asked to stay home would still be able to go for a walk outside.

“It’s about being sensible but not mixing in crowds,” he said.

09:54 Chinese media links coronavirus to US military lab

The state-run Global Times has reported about a petition on the White House website urging the US government to release more information on the suspension of an infectious disease research lab under the Pentagon.

The Global Times noted that Chinese internet users and experts are calling for more information on whether The Fort Detrick laboratory was linked to the novel coronavirus, citing coincidental events between the lab’s closure and the outbreak of Covid-19.

It noted many English-language news reports about the closure of Fort Detrick were deleted recently, raising “suspicions over the lab’s ‘relationship’ with the novel coronavirus”.

This is the latest in a series of remarks by Chinese diplomats and the state media fuelling a theory that the virus did not originate in China, but was only found there.

Last week, the official Xinhua news agency claimed that the epidemic was first reported in China but “that does not mean it necessarily originated in China”.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian has even tweeted that “it might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan”.

09:48 UK MP Kate Osborne tests positive for virus

A second British MP has revealed that they have been diagnosed with Covid-19.

Kate Osbourne, Labour MP for Jarrow, in north-east England, said she would “continue to self isolate until I have fought off the illness”.

09:39 Coronavirus measure to impact Delhi citizenship protest

The government in Delhi has invoked a 123-year-old law to prevent large gatherings in the city, which is expected to affect an ongoing protest against a controversial citizenship law.

All social, political and religious gatherings have been halted under the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said.

The move will impact the protests at Shaheen Bagh, where thousands of people,mostly led by Muslim women, have been protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

The CAA offers fast track citizenship to non-Muslim illegal migrants from six nearby Muslim majority countries.

Critics argue that it is discriminatory and can be used to persecute India’s 200 million strong Muslim population.

India now has 110 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and two deaths.

09:02 Stocks plunge despite global central bank action

Global stock markets have sunk despite central banks around the world announcing a co-ordinated effort to ease the effects of the coronavirus.

London’s FTSE 100 share index fell more than 7% in early trade. Earlier, markets in Asia closed sharply lower.

On Sunday, the US Federal Reserve cut interest rates to almost zero and launched a $700bn (£566bn) stimulus programme.

08:42 Philippines’ Manila under ‘quarantine’

The Philippine’s main island of Luzon – home to the capital Manila – has been placed under “enhanced community quarantine”.

According to President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman, this means everyone will be subjected to strict home quarantine, with no transportation allowed except for the moving of basic services and necessities.

Manila is currently already under a “community quarantine” – all domestic travel to and from the capital has been halted.

People from within metro Manila can still move freely inside the region, says news site Rappler.

08:13 Smokers stock up in the Netherlands

People have been stocking up on cannabis before the Netherlands goes into lockdown.

07:52 China announces six more imported cases

China said on Monday it had logged six new imported cases of coronavirus.

Of the new cases, four were from Spain and two were from the UK, according to state media.

China’s foreign ministry has warned imported cases are now the main risk. Earlier, just four new “local” cases were reported, all in Wuhan.

07:45 Huge queues in California

People form a huge queue outside a Costco store in California despite the White House appealing to Americans not to hoard as the virus spreads.

The government has reassured the population that grocery supply chains are strong.

07:34 French situation ‘deteriorating very fast’

The coronavirus outbreak in France is “very worrying” and “deteriorating very fast”, the head of the country’s health service said on Monday morning.

“The number of cases double every three days,” Jerome Salomon said on France Inter, as per the AFP news agency.

He added that the number of seriously ill patients and those needing intensive care “runs into hundreds”.

France has had more than 5,000 cases and 127 deaths.

07:27 Switzerland cases jump to 2,200

The death toll stands at 14.

The country has already closed all schools in an effort to curb or slow the spread of the virus.

According to local media, the army will supply a hospital battalion to help medical staff tackle the crisis.

07:18 Emirates cases jump close to 100

Abu Dhabi on Monday kicked off a range of new measures to ease the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy.

They include subsidies for water and electricity bills. The United Arab Emirates recently announced a $27 billion stimulus package.

The country on Sunday reported 12 new cases, taking the UAE’s total to 98.

The virus has hit two important sectors of the UAE’s economy: tourism and aviation.

07:12 Honduras ‘in lockdown’ as workers sent home

Honduras was in a state of near lockdown on Monday, reports Reuters, after the government decided to send public and private sector workers home, temporarily call off flights, and suspend public transport to halt the spread of the virus.

The measures will be in effect for seven days. Exceptions to the public sector suspensions include healthcare, emergency services, security and national defence, customs, migration, ports and airports.

In the private sector, banks, hospitals, pharmaceutical firms, petrol stations, freight operators and a few other sectors will continue to operate.

The Central American country has six confirmed cases so far.

07:02 Editor who met Rita Wilson tests positive

Channel 9 Entertainment Editor Richard Wilkins has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mr Wilkins had earlier met actress Rita Wilson, who together with her husband US actor Tom Hanks have tested positive for the virus.

But he said he was feeling “100%… no symptoms at all!”

07:02 Italian FA calls for Euros postponement

The Italian Football Federation calls for the postponement of Euro 2020 to give the country time to complete the Serie A season.

06:22 Peace Corps brings volunteers home

American volunteer group the Peace Corps says is suspending all volunteer activity and will bring people home.

“We are acting now to safeguard your well-being and prevent a situation where volunteers are unable to leave their home country,” director Jody Olsen said, adding that all volunteers abroad will be evacuated.

An agency of the US government, the corps sends volunteers to live and work in developing countries around the world.

06:13 New cases in the Maldives

The number of coronavirus cases in the Maldives has risen to 13 after three more people tested positive on Monday.

All of the confirmed cases are foreign citizens – either tourists or migrant workers.

The country’s government has already implemented entry restrictions on tourists arriving from Spain, Germany, France, Italy, South Korea, China and Bangladesh.

06:10 More African states impose travel restrictions

Increasing numbers of African countries are confirming coronavirus cases, prompting many to announce measures to control the spread of the virus.

Ghana is the latest nation to ban entry to foreign visitors from countries badly impacted by the disease.

Earlier, South Africa declared a state of disaster, closing its borders to foreign nationals from countries badly impacted by the disease. The ban includes China, Iran, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US.

Kenya has also imposed sweeping travel restrictions, blocking entry to all travellers coming from countries with reported cases. On Sunday the government confirmed two more cases of coronavirus, taking the total number to three.

Djibouti and Tanzania, which do not yet have confirmed cases, are suspending international flights.

Morocco has also suspended all international flights from its airports. The North African state has 28 confirmed cases, including one death.

The prime minister of Libya’s internationally recognised government, Fayez Sarraj, also announced the closure of Libya’s airspace and land borders as a preventative measure starting from Monday.

In neighbouring Algeria, which has 48 coronavirus cases, officials announced they would be suspending all flights to France as of Tuesday.

In Tunisia, Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh has ordered the closure of all borders and a ban on large gatherings, including congregation prayers in mosques. The country has confirmed 20 cases of the virus.

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi has suspended all gatherings of 300 people or more. He has also suspended all foreign travel by state officials – including his own visits to Equatorial Guinea and Palestinian territories that were scheduled for later this month.

The virus is now confirmed to be present in at least 26 nations across the continent.

05:53 Australia freezes ‘all household fees’

The Australian state of Western Australia has frozen all household fees, including electricity, water, public transport fares and motor vehicles charges, reports ABC.

The state has declared a state of emergency.

05:21 Asia stocks fall after global central bank action

Stock markets in Asia have fallen – even after central banks around the world announced a coordinated effort to ease the effects of the coronavirus.

The US Federal Reserve cut interest rates to almost zero and launched a $700bn stimulus programme.

The eurozone, the UK, Japan, Canada, and Switzerland have also taken action.

Investors are concerned that central banks now have few options left to combat the impact of the pandemic. After the emergency announcements US stock futures indicated a sharply lower open for Wall Street later.

In Asian morning trade, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 was down by 0.2%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was 2.2% lower, and the Shanghai Composite in China lost 0.5%.

05:21 Nike to close stores

Sports giant Nike says it will close all stores in the US as well as its retail outlets in Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

The closure will be in place until 27 March.

And it’s not the only one that’s shutting down stores. Sports retailer Under Armour also said it would close all its US stores for two weeks. Yoga giant Lululemon is also following suit, closing its stores in the US and Europe for a similar period.

05:17 Turkey reports new cases

Turkey reported 12 new cases of the virus on Monday, its highest daily rise since the country announced its first case last week.

Two of the new cases were related to the first case reported in the country. Seven patients had travelled from Europe and three from the US.

There are currently 18 cases of the virus in the country.

05:15 Australian war memorial events cancelled

Australia hosts large events every year to mark Anzac Day on 25 April, a remembrance of Australians and New Zealanders who have died in war.

Three states – Western Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania – have all said they are cancelling their events this year, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports.

“It is in our DNA to soldier on but this is a time we need to bunker down a bit,” said John McCourt, chief executive of the WA Returned and Services League.

05:04 Casinos to introduce ‘social distancing’

Australian casino operators Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment Group will introduce “social distancing” at their casinos, reports Reuters.

They said they would keep gamblers apart by switching off every other gaming machine and electronic table. They would also restrict the number of players at stand-up table games.

It comes after authorities in Australia advised against non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people.

04:56 Vietnam confirms four more cases

Four more cases of the virus have been detected in Vietnam, said Reuters quoting the health ministry – bringing the total number of cases to 57.

The newest patients include a Latvian, a German and two British nationals.

04:40 ‘Dramatic increase’ in NSW cases

The Australian state of New South Wales has seen a “dramatic increase” in the number of new cases, said local media reports quoting Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

Thirty-seven people tested positive for the virus over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 171.

04:37 LV to start making hand sanitiser

Luxury hand sanitiser? That could soon be a reality as Louis Vuitton owner LVMH announced it would begin making its own hand sanitiser.

It said these would be delivered free of charge to health authorities in France.

04:12 Australian states make emergency declarations

Victoria and Western Australia have joined Queensland and South Australia in declaring states of emergency.

New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory have invoked other emergency powers.

On Sunday, Australia ordered all people coming into the nation to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days.

Victoria has recorded 14 new virus cases in the past 24 hours. Nationally, the total sits at about 300.

04:01 Turkey quarantines thousands of pilgrims

Around 10,000 pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia over the weekend have been quarantined in Turkey, which now has six confirmed cases of the virus.

The country’s health minister said they were being placed in “separate rooms for quarantine” in the capital Ankara and the nearby Konya province.

A pilgrim who returned from Saudi Arabia last week tested positive for the virus.

Saudi Arabia last month prevented the entry of overseas pilgrims to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina.

03:59 MGM shuts casinos in Las Vegas ‘until further notice’

Major casino chain MGM is closing its operations in Las Vegas, it announced on Sunday in the US.

03:50 Lewis Capaldi concert criticised

UK singer Lewis Capaldi is trending on Twitter, after the Scottish star decided to go ahead with a concert in Aberdeen over the weekend…

03:36 Cambodia reports new cases

Cambodia has confirmed four new virus cases – including a four-month-old French boy.

The baby is the son of a French man who travelled from Paris via Singapore to Phnom Penh. He tested positive for the virus on Sunday – his wife tested negative.

A Cambodian man returning from France and two other people returning from an Islamic ceremony in Malaysia were also confirmed to have the virus.

This brings the number of confirmed cases in the country to 12.

03:21 Los Angeles shuts down all bars, restaurants

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has ordered a shutdown of bars, restaurants and nightclubs in the city, reports news agency Reuters.

This comes just hours after the city of New York issued a similar order.

03:07 Air New Zealand cuts flights and jobs

New Zealand’s flag carrier will shrink to a skeleton operation because of the global travel limitations.