Coronavirus updates: UAE suspends flights, Saudi imposes curfew

The UAE is suspending all passenger and transit flights for two weeks, while Saudi Arabia has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Europe, Italy has moved to stop all domestic travel, as the country’s death toll from COVID-19 climbed past 5,400.


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More than 15,300 people have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, globally. An estimated 100,000 of the 349,000 people who have been diagnosed with the disease across the world have recovered, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

I’m Joseph Stepansky in Doha, taking over from Mersiha Gadzo with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are the latest updates:

Monday, March 23

13:30 GMT –  Thousands of migrant workers leave Thailand

Tens of thousands of migrant workers left Thailand for neigbouring countries as the country prepared to close many land border crossings late on Monday to curb the coronavirus outbreak, according to Reuters news afgency. 

At the same time, Thai workers from the countryside were also fleeing Bangkok after department stores, malls, dine-in restaurants, salons and other public places were ordered closed over the weekend.

Thai authorities have urged workers not to rush out of the cities in large numbers and to stay put in order to curb the spread of the disease.

Thailand is estimated to have four to five million migrant workers, mainly from Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

13:15 GMT – Chancellor Merkel is well, awaiting coronavirus test result: Spokesman

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is awaiting the result of a test to establish whether she has coronavirus after visiting a doctor who has tested positive for the illness, her spokesman has said.

“The chancellor is well,” Steffen Seibert said during a regular government news conference. He declined to say when the test results are expected. Merkel went into quarantine on Sunday.

COVID-19 crisis: Asian countries boost restrictions

13:00 GMT – German health minister says hospitals will get help with more beds, staff 

German hospitals that need more staff and beds to tackle the coronavirus outbreak will get financial help, Health Minister Jens Spahn has said.

“If you need more beds, if you need more staff and equipment to treat coronavirus patients you will be compensated financially,” he said. 

“Specifically, you will get a daily bonus of $602.78 per bed that is made free or which is not being used for planned operations. For new intensive-care beds with ventilators there will be a grant from health insurance funds of 50,000 euros,” he added

12:34 GMT – Russia to use mobile phones to track people

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin gave the authorities five days to develop a system to track people who have come into contact with anyone with coronavirus by using mobile phone geolocation data.

Under the new system, people would be sent information if they came into contact with someone who was infected and the same information would be passed on to special regional headquarters set up to fight the pandemic.

The Kremlin said the measure was legal and part of measures Russia is taking to try to halt spread of the virus.

Coronavirus outbreak affects flow of goods in Kenya and Rwanda

12:18 GMT – Singapore reports rise of 54 cases to 509

Singapore’s health ministry reported 54 new cases of the coronavirus, mostly from residents returning from other parts of the world where the infection has spread.

Of the new infections, 48 were imported cases. Singapore’s total stands at 509, with two fatalities.

12:08 GMT – US Fed amounts new steps to combat hit to economy

The US Federal Reserve, citing “tremendous hardship” caused by the coronavirus pandemic, said it would begin backstopping an unprecedented range of credit for households, small businesses and major employers.

The Fed said in a statement the effort was taken because “it has become clear that our economy will face severe disruptions”.

12:00 GMT – India to stop domestic flights

All domestic flights will stop from Tuesday midnight, India’s federal government announced.

Airlines must plan operations in order to land at their destination before 11:59pm on Tuesday, the government said in statement.

Only cargo flights will be allowed. International flights have already been banned for a week.

A passenger wearing a protective mask holds a baby as she waits outside an airport following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi

A passenger waits outside an airport in New Delhi, India [Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

11:51 GMT – Azerbaijan GP postponed

Azerbaijan postponed its June 7 Formula One Grand Prix, following the cancellation of the Australian and Monaco rounds and the postponement of Bahrain, Vietnam, China, the Netherlands and Spain.

Here is a list of what other sporting events have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

11:50 GMT – South Africa cases rise by 128 to 402

South Africa’s health minister said the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 128 to 402 since Sunday.

Coronavirus changes how Muslims worship

11:45 GMT – Switzerland cases rise by 956 to 8,060: health agency

Swiss health authorities reported 956 more coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of people tested positive in Switzerland and Liechtenstein to 8,060.

The number of deaths rose by six from Sunday to 66, the Federal Office of Public Health said.

11:30 GMT – Map: How many cases does each Indian state have?

At least seven people have died in India after contracting COVID-19, which has infected more than 400 people across the South Asian country, and health experts warn that a big jump in cases could be imminent.

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Read more here.

India Calls For Curfew Against The Coronavirus Outbreak

The world’s second most populous nation has so far seen low infections but at the weekend it saw a big jump, prompting authorities to announce lockdown in dozens of cities and districts until March 31 [Yawar Nazir/Getty Images]

11:20 GMT – Botswana’s president in self-isolation

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi has gone into self-isolation for 14 days after returning from a trip to neighboring Namibia, the presidency said in a statement.

Masisi took an emergency official trip to Namibia on Saturday to attend a meeting with other regional heads of state to discuss measures put in place by countries bordering Botswana to fight the coronavirus.

“The rationale for the imposition of self-isolation is that while Namibia has registered three imported cases and is considered low risk for SARS-CoV-2 transmission at the time of His Excellency the President’s trip to Namibia, the low testing rates in the region make that determination difficult and there is a high possibility of undetermined local transmission,” the statement said.

11:10 GMT – Nigeria reports first death

Nigeria reported its first death from coronavirus as the number of confirmed cases rose to 36.

“The case was a 67 year old male who returned home following medical treatment in UK. He had underlying medical conditions – multiple myeloma and diabetes and was undergoing chemotherapy,” the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control wrote on Twitter.

The agency said the confirmed number of infections in Nigeria had now risen to 36, with cases registered in the largest city Lagos, the capital Abuja and four other states.

Spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Abuja

A man stands with the sanitizer in his hand at the entrance of a Living Faith Church, following the outbreak of the coronavirus in Abuja, Nigeria [Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters]

10:15 GMT – Coronavirus terminology explained

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the jargon around the health crisis that upended daily life across the globe.

Here are some of the most commonly used terms and phrases explained: Your COVID-19 glossary.

09:50 GMT – ‘We’ll die like cattle’: Kashmiris fear coronavirus outbreak

Doctors say Kashmir, which has been under a security lockdown since August, is “ill-equipped” to deal with the pandemic.

Read about it here.


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09:25 GMT – US records 471 deaths, cases over 35,200

The coronavirus death toll in the US rose to 471, while the number of cases reached 35,224, according to John Hopkins University.

New York City and Washington state – where the country’s first case was reported in late January – are the most affected, with 99 and 96 fatalities, respectively.

Medical personnels take medical samples of patients at a

Medical personnel take medical samples from patients at a ‘drive-thru’ coronavirus testing lab set up by local community centre in West Palm Beach, Florida [Chandan Khanna/AFP]

09:15 GMT – Turkish Airlines suspends nearly all international flights

Turkey’s flag carrier, Turkish Airlines, suspended nearly all international flights as of Monday until April 17.

The only exceptions are New York, Washington, Hong Kong, Moscow and Addis Ababa, the airline said in a statement.

The airline will continue its domestic flights – with cutbacks – and cargo operations as planned.

Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane TC-JVV taxies to take-off in Riga International Airport

Turkish Airlines flights to New York, Washington, Hong Kong, Moscow and Addis Ababa will continue [Ints Kalnins/Reuters]

09:15 GMT – Uzbekistan to lock down capital

Uzbekistan will lock down its capital city Tashkent from March 24, the Central Asian nation’s government said.

With all but one of Uzbekistan’s 46 confirmed cases registered in the city of more than 2.5 million, the government has already shut down public transit in the capital and ordered most businesses to switch to remote working.

09:00 GMT – Cases in Indonesia reach 579

Indonesia reported 65 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in Southeast Asia’s largest economy to 579, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto told reporters.

The number of people killed by the virus rose by one on Monday to 49, he said, while 30 patients have recovered from the disease.

Workers walk in protective suits during an operation of spraying disinfectant to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Jakarta, Indonesia March 22, 2020 in this photo taken by Antara

Workers in protective suits during a disinfecting operation in Jakarta, Indonesia [Reuters]

08:45 GMT – Britain now has access to 12,000 ventilators

Britain now has access to 12,000 ventilators after buying more from existing providers, and its manufacturers are stepping up further production, Health Minister Matt Hancock said.

“We’ve made serious progress on that, there’s now over 12,000 that we’ve managed to get to,” he told BBC Radio.

“We started with 5,000, so we’ve been buying ventilators, and we’ve also been engaged with companies who are going to turn their production over to ventilators.”

08:40 GMT – Hong Kong bans all non-resident arrivals

Hong Kong will ban all non-residents from entering the financial hub from Wednesday, its leader said, as it tries to halt a recent spike in virus infections from people arriving from abroad.

“From midnight of March 25, all non-Hong Kong residents flying in from overseas will not be allowed into the city,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said, adding the order would be in place for at least two weeks.

Passengers wear protective suits, amid the outbreak of coronavirus, at Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong, China March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Passengers wear protective suits at Hong Kong International Airport [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

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08:30 GMT – Infections in the Philippines rise to 462 cases

The Philippines’ health ministry confirmed 82 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of cases to 462.

08:25 GMT – What does having COVID-19 feel like?

Why do we get a fever and cough? Where does the sore throat come from, and why do some people suffer from diarrhoea? To understand this, we need to understand how the virus takes control of our bodies.

Read more here.

08:13 GMT – Brazil football stadiums to turn into coronavirus field hospitals

Brazil’s top football clubs are handing over their stadiums to health authorities to turn them into field hospitals and clinics to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more here.

General Views of Rio de Janeiro as the Coronavirus (COVID - 19) Continues to Spread

An aerial view of Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil [Buda Mendes/Getty Images]

08:00 GMT – Germany reports 31 more deaths

Confirmed COID-19 cases in Germany have risen to 22,672 and 86 people have died from the disease, a tally by public health agency Robert Koch Institute (RKI) showed.

That compares with 18,610 cases and 55 deaths on Sunday, when RKI warned that the actual number was likely higher as not all local health authorities had submitted their figures over the weekend.


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07:45 GMT – Over 80 Indian cities, districts under lockdown

Authorities in India have placed more than 80 districts across the country under stringent lockdown after cases of coronavirus were detected from those areas, as the world’s second-most populous nation stepped up measures to halt the spread of the pandemic.

Read more here.

07:20 GMT – UAE suspends passenger, transit flights

The UAE, home to the world’s busiest international airport, is suspending all passenger and transit flights for two weeks.

The country’s emergency and crisis management body and its Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement that the decision to stop all commercial flights would take effect in 48 hours.

Dubai’s famous shopping malls will also close “for a renewable period of two weeks”.

Fresh food markets will also close, but pharmacies and food retail outlets will stay open. Restaurants are limited to home deliveries.

07:00 GMT – Saudi Arabia imposes dusk-to-dawn curfew

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman announced a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew from Monday in a bid to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

The curfew – from 7pm to 6am – will be imposed for 21 days, the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a royal order.

The move comes after Saudi Arabia on Sunday said the number of COVID-19 cases it recorded had jumped to 511, the highest in the Gulf.

General view shows the empty garden of the King Fahd Library, following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 19, 2020. Picture taken March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Ah

General view shows the empty garden of the King Fahd Library in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [Ahmed Yosri/Reuters]

06:50 GMT – Montenegro records first death

A 65-year old man died shortly after his arrival at a hospital in the capital Podgorica on Sunday night, broadcaster RTCG reported.

The man had earlier travelled to Serbia, RTCG reported.

Currently, 22 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the Balkan country.

Another 5,500 people suspected to have the virus were under observation, health authorities said.

06:30 GMT – Three doctors die from coronavirus in Philippines

At least three doctors have died in the Philippines where thousands of medics bravely worked to treat patients despite a lack of protective gear, officials said.

Several other doctors were reported to be in critical condition, while hundreds of healthcare workers were in quarantine after being exposed to the virus in various hospitals in Manila, according to hospitals and colleagues.

The three doctors – a cardiologist, an anaesthesiologist and an oncologist – were infected with the virus while treating patients in three different hospitals in Manila, according to the Philippine Medical Association and the hospitals.

Gaza confirms first coronavirus cases

03:55 GMT – US coronavirus package held up in Senate

The United States’s $1 trillion-plus coronavirus response bill has been held up by partisan battles in the Senate, but talks continued over Democrats’ demands for more funding for medical care and state and local efforts to combat the pandemic.

The measure faltered after it failed to get the necessary 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to clear a procedural hurdle after days of negotiations.

You can find out more about this here.

03:35 GMT – New Zealand to ‘go into self-isolation’

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the country will move into its highest alert level, with all-non-essential services, schools and offices to be shut over the next 48 hours.

The move means bars, cafes, restaurants and cinemas will be shut. Supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open, Ardern said, adding that the country was well supplied.

All schools will be closed from Tuesday, she said.

“New Zealand is now preparing to go into self-isolation,” Ardern told a news conference.

03:25 GMT – Communities where social distancing and self-isolation are impossible

The idea of “social distancing” and “self-isolation” is next to impossible for 44-year-old Bangkok resident Maliwan Kamdaeng; one of 100,000 people living in Khong Toey, the city’s largest slum community.

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Like many people in the settlement, Maliwan lives with her extended family in a modest house of wood and metal sheets squeezed in with others that line narrow alleyways. You can find out more about her concerns in this story by Caleb Quinley.

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03:15 GMT – Singapore Airlines grounds most of fleet

Singapore Airlines will cut capacity by 96 percent and ground almost all of its fleet after the coronavirus prompted Singapore to close its borders.

The carrier says the pandemic is the “greatest challenge” it has ever faced.

Singapore announced on Sunday it would close its borders to short-term visitors and transiting passengers, after reporting a number of imported cases. You can find out more on the latest situation in Singapore in this report from Tom Benner.

03:05 GMT – Jailed Weinstein has coronavirus

Harvey Weinstein, the former movie producer jailed for sexual assault and rape, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to an official at the prison officers union. 

Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, says the 68-year-old has been placed in isolation, but expressed concern for prison officers who do not have proper protective equipment. Several staff members have been quarantined.


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02:50 GMT – More cases of imported coronavirus found in China

Mainland China continues to see more cases of coronavirus being imported from abroad and is ramping up control measures to cope. 

The National Health Commission says there were 39 new confirmed cases on Sunday, down from 46 a day earlier. All involved travellers arriving from abroad.

With 10 new imported cases, Beijing is expanding measures to contain imported infections, with all international flights now directed away from the capital to other cities, including Shanghai.

China Beijing

Flights are being diverted away from Beijing in order to curb the number of imported cases of coronavirus in the capital [Thomas Peter/Reuters]

Shanghai and Guangzhou have said all arriving international passengers will undergo tests to screen for the coronavirus, expanding a programme that previously only applied to those coming from heavily-affected countries.

Shanghai reported 10 new cases on Sunday.

02:45 GMT – Hopes grow South Korea outbreak is easing

South Korea has reported its lowest number of new coronavirus cases since a peak on February 29, and a downward trend in daily infections is raising hopes the outbreak might be easing.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said there were 64 new cases on Monday, taking the total to 8,961. The death toll rose by one to 110.

The new numbers marked the 12th day in a row the country has posted new infections of around 100 or less, compared with 909 cases recorded on the last day of February.

In contrast, 257 patients were released from hospitals where they had been isolated for treatment, the KCDC said. 

02:40 GMT – Canada says it will not participate in Olympics

Canada has said it will not send a team to the summer games, while Australia has said it is preparing for a postponement until next summer.

“The AOC (Australian Olympic Committee) believes our athletes now need to prioritise their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families, in discussion with their National Federations,” the AOC said in a statement.

Canada earlier announced it would not send its team to the Olympics and Paralympics in the summer of 2020, and called for a postponement.

We’ll have more on the story later.

00:15 GMT – Postponing Olympics may become an ‘option’ – Abe

Speculation continues over the fate of the Olympic Games, which are due to take place in Japan in July,

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has told parliament that postponing the games may become an option if holding the event in its “complete form” becomes impossible.

He said cancellation was not an option.

Tokyo Olympics Japan

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, has said the Tokyo Olympics could be postponed, but will not be cancelled [File: Issei Kato/Reuters]

00:10 GMT – New Zealand cases rise; opposition puts campaign on hold

New Zealand has reported an additional 36 confirmed cases of coronavirus, two of which are related to community transmission its Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, told the media on Monday.

Shortly after the numbers were released, the opposition announced it was suspending its campaign for elections that are due to take place in September.

New Zealand now has 102 cases.

00:00 GMT – British scientists to track spread of virus

UK scientists will track the spread of the new coronavirus and watch for emerging mutations by using gene sequencing to analyse the strains causing thousands of COVID-19 infections across the country, the government said on Monday.

Researchers will collect data from samples from infected patients in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the government said in a statement.

Scientists will then map out and analyse the full genetic codes of the COVID-19 samples.

“Genomic sequencing will help us understand COVID-19 and its spread. It can also help guide treatments in the future and see the impact of interventions,” Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said in the statement. 

Click here to read all the latest updates from yesterday (March 22).

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