Confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide top 1.5m

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Another 6.6 million people in the US file for unemployment benefits as total number of deaths in Spain surpasses 15,000.

Spain reported 683 daily coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, a lower number of fatalities compared to the previous two days.

For the second straight day, the US recorded nearly 2,000 fatalities, while in Britain the daily death toll hit a record 938 in one day.

Thursday, April 9

14:11 GMT – Global number of cases surpass 1.5 million

The total number of positive cases around the world now stands at 1,502,618, according to data collected by John Hopkins University in the United States.

The total number of deaths is 89,915, while 339,775 people have recovered.

14:05 – Botswana’s entire parliament quarantined 

All Botswana’s parliamentarians including President Mokgweetsi Masisi will be quarantined for 14 days and tested for the coronavirus, after a health worker screening lawmakers for the virus herself tested positive overnight.

The health worker had checked the temperatures of some of the lawmakers a day earlier during a special sitting of parliament, which was called to debate a proposal by Masisi to extend a state of emergency to six months.

13:57 GMT – England’s hospital death toll rises

The coronavirus death toll in English hospitals rose 765 to 7,248, the health service said.

Of the 765 patients, 43 (aged between 33 and 99) had no known underlying health condition.

13:55 GMT – Lebanon extends lockdown

Lebanon’s government has extended its almost month-long coronavirus shutdown by another two weeks until April 26 to combat the spread of the disease, the information minister said.

Since Lebanon declared a state of medical emergency last month, people are allowed to leave their homes only to buy food or medicine, and most businesses have closed. The only airport is also shut, except for a few flights returning expatriots stranded abroad.

An overnight curfew largely bans people from going outside between 7pm and 5am, with security forces enforcing curbs.

13:45 GMT – Canada says death toll could hit 22,000

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak could hit 22,000 by the end of the pandemic, health officials in Canada said.

Officials outlined the two most likely scenarios, showing that between 11,000 and 22,000 people would die.

The officials told a briefing that they expected between 500 and 700 people to die by April 16. The death toll so far is 436, with 19,290 positive diagnoses.

13:05 GMT – China tackles coronavirus cluster brought from Russia

The Chinese city of Suifenhe entered a lockdown fuelled by an influx of infected travellers crossing the border from Russia in recent days.

The northeast region’s health commission reported 40 new cases on Wednesday, all returning Chinese nationals who crossed the border, according to local media reports.

12:59 GMT – Some gov’ts eye easing coronavirus restrictions despite warnings

While the coronavirus panademic ontinues to ravage regions in Europe and the United States, some governments have started to contemplate a calibrated easing of the restrictions put in place in recent weeks.

Deaths, hospitalisations, and new infections are levelling off in places such as Italy and Spain. The state of New York, the current epicentre in the US, has seen encouraging signs that the infection rate there, which has been on the rise, could soon do the same.

12:50 GMT – Canada loses 1million jobs in March

Canada lost a record-breaking one million jobs in March while the unemployment rate soared to 7.8%, official data showed, as the coronavirus outbreak forced the closure of non-essential businesses.

Statistics Canada said the data did not fully capture the extent of the job losses since the agency polled respondents before the crisis began to take its full toll. Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast a loss of 350,000 jobs and an unemployment rate of 7.2%, up from the 5.6% seen in February.

12:40 GMT – 6.6 million more Americans file unemployment claims

US weekly data shows 6.6 million new jobless claims were filed in the first week of April, nearly as high as the previous week’s record-breaking figure, as the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic continues to weigh on the economy

12:13 GMT – Dutch coronavirus cases rise by 1,213 to 21,762 -authorities

The Netherlands reported 1,213 coronavirus cases, taking the total to 21,762, health authorities said, with 148 new deaths.

The country’s death toll stands at 2,396, the Netherlands’ Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said in its daily update.

The RIVM repeated that the real numbers are higher, as not all cases or deaths in the country are confirmed by testing.

12:12 GMT – Vietnam says 15,000 people linked to COVID-19 hotspot tested negative

More than 1,000 healthcare workers and 14,400 others linked to a coronavirus outbreak at a hospital in Hanoi have tested negative for the coronavirus, the Vietnamese capital’s ruling body said.

Bach Mai hospital, one of the country’s biggest medical centres, has been under lockdown since March 28 after authorities became concerned that cases there would spiral out of control.

“All 15,461 people tested negative for the virus. The outbreak in Bach Mai has been well controlled after the lockdown,” Hanoi People’s Committee chairman Nguyen Duc Chung said at a meeting, according to a statement on the ruling body’s website.

11:56 GMT – Pakistani taxi drivers give free rides to Spanish health workers

Pakistani taxi drivers in Barcelona has started an intitiative providing free rides for medical workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The initiative started at the beginning of Spain’s lockdown, in mid-March, as six Pakistani taxi drivers led by Shahbaz Ahmed discussed how medical workers would be able to return at night to their homes.

Since then, their effort has expanded to about 200 volunteers, including some drivers from other nationalities.

11:45 GMT – 107-year old Dutch woman recovers from coronavirus

A 107-year old Dutch woman has recovered from the coronavirus, probably becoming the oldest survivor of the pandemic in the world.

Cornelia Ras fell ill on March 17, the day after her 107th birthday, Dutch newspaper AD reported, after attending a church service with other residents of her nursing home on Goeree-Overflakkee, an island in the southwest of the country.

She and 40 others at the service were subsequently diagnosed as carrying the virus.

11:43 GMT – ‘EU is in danger’ – Spanish PM

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has issued an urgent warning that the European Union is in danger of disintegrating in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

“The EU is in danger if there is no solidarity,” Sanchez told parliament

Spain is among the countries calling for common debt insurance, widely referred to as coronabonds, to tackle the economic fall-out from the coronavirus pandemic. Germany and other countries have so
far rejected the proposal.

11:31 GMT – Coronavirus reaches Amazon’s isolated Yanomami tribe

Brazil has announced the first coronavirus case among the Yanomami people, an Amazon indigenous group known for its remoteness and vulnerability to foreign diseases.

The patient, a 15-year-old boy, was being treated in an intensive care unit at a hospital in Boa Vista, the capital of the northern state of Roraima, officials said.

11:20 GMT – Russia cases surge past 10,000 after record daily rise

Russia reported a record one-day rise in cases of novel coronavirus, pushing the official tally to more than 10,000, a day after President Vladimir Putin said the coming weeks would prove decisive in the fight against the virus.

The number of cases jumped by 1,459 and 13 more people died, the national coronavirus crisis response centre said on its website. That brings the overall death toll to 76.

A view shows a mannequin inside a shop window in Moscow
Moscow and many other regions are in their second week of a partial lockdown

11:12 GMT – Nicaragua excludes political prisoners from mass release

Political prisoners were excluded from almost 2,000 inmates released early by Nicaragua because of the coronavirus pandemic, activists said.

The Interior Ministry said 1,700 people held in prisons across the country were let out and placed under house arrest supervised by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“In this way we fulfill our Christian commitment to promote family union, especially to also promote the social reintegration of people who have made mistakes in society,” Vice President Rosario Murillo told reporters on Wednesday.

11:00 GMT  – Four infected newborns among new cases in China – study

New evidence from China suggests it is possible for expectant mothers to pass coronavirus on to their unborn babies in the womb, according to a new report.

Research published by scientists from the University of Wuhan in the European Respiratory Journal suggests that four infected new borns were among the 81,000 coronavirus cases confirmed in China by mid
March.

In all four cases the mothers were also infected with coronavirus and in three cases showed symptoms immediately before giving birth. The babies only showed mild symptoms and were not in need of ventilation
or treatment in intensive care.

09:45 GMT – Spain’s death toll surpasses 15,000

Spain’s number of daily coronavirus deaths slowed after two days of increase as 683 people succumbed in 24 hours, taking the country’s total to 15,238, the health ministry said.

Overall detected cases rose to 152,446 from 146,690 on Wednesday, it added.

09:21 GMT – Malaysia reports 109 new cases, 2 deaths

Malaysia reported 109 new coronavirus infections, raising its cumulative total to 4,228 cases as Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy grapples with the highest number of infections in the region.

The health ministry also reported two new deaths, raising the total number of fatalities to 67.

Malaysia troops
The death toll in Malaysia rose to 67

09:10 GMT – Lockdown drives jump in vodka and whisky sales in Russia

Russian retailers have seen a sharp spike in alcohol sales in recent weeks with consumers rushing to buy vodka, whisky and beer at a time when Moscow and other regions have imposed partial lockdowns.

In the last week of March, vodka sales across Russia’s largest retail chains jumped 31 percent in year-on-year terms, while whisky and beer purchases increased 47 percent and 25 percent respectively, Nielsen, a market research firm, found.

Sultan Khamzaev, head of Sober Russia which campaigns to reduce alcohol consumption, said the spike in sales was driven by long holidays, stress, fears that alcohol would run out, and a belief among many Russians that alcohol offers some protection against the new coronavirus.

08:53 GMT – China tackles coronavirus cluster brought from Russia

The Chinese city of Suifenhe in northeastern Heilongjiang province, which has seen an influx of imported coronavirus cases from Russia in recent days, is building a temporary hospital to treat those who have been infected.

The hospital will provide more than 600 beds and is expected to be completed by April 11. The city, on the Russian border, has already placed residents under lockdown and closed the land border.

08:45 GMT – South Africa’s Ramaphosa defends WHO

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has thrown his support behind the WHO after it came under stinging attack from US leader Donald Trump over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement from Ramaphosa’s office late Wednesday said he “reaffirms his appreciation for the exceptional leadership” of World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “from the very earliest stages of this unprecedented global health crisis”.

Ramaphosa was speaking in his capacity as the current leader of the African Union (AU).

08:20 GMT – UN delivers 90 tons of COVID-19 aid to Venezuela

A plane carrying 90 tons of UN health, water and sanitation aid arrived in Venezuela on Wednesday to help the cash-strapped country fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The shipment includes 28,000 Personal Protective Equipment kits for health workers, oxygen concentrators, pediatric beds, water quality control products and hygiene kits, the UN said.

“This is the first United Nations humanitarian shipment in support of the Venezuela COVID-19 outbreak,” said Peter Grohmann, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Venezuela.

Venezuela, suffering from a crippling economic crisis that has led to shortages of basic food and medicine and forced some five million people to flee the country, has 167 confirmed cases of coronavirus and nine deaths.

07:40 GMT – Vietnam approves $7.6bn tax holiday to help virus-hit businesses

Vietnam has approved a plan to delay the collection of 180 trillion dong ($7.6bn) in taxes and land rent to help businesses hit by the new coronavirus, which has infected 251 people in the country, the government said.

The government will delay the collection of value-added tax, corporate income tax, personal income tax and land rent for five months for various businesses and households, it said in a statement

07:15 GMT – Taiwan protests against accusations from WHO

Taiwan’s foreign ministry on strongly protested accusations from the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) that it condoned racist personal attacks on him that he alleged were coming from the self-governing island democracy.

On Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus accused Taiwan’s foreign ministry of being linked to a months-long campaign against him during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a press briefing, he said he has been personally attacked, including receiving death threats and racist abuse.

06:45 GMT – UK’s Johnson remains stable – minister

The UK Culture Minister said Prime Minister Boris Johnson was stable, and his condition was improving as he engaged with the medical staff tending to him.

06:36 GMT – 103-year-old Italian says ‘courage, faith’ helped beat virus

To recover from the coronavirus, as she did, Ada Zanusso recommends courage and faith, the same qualities that have served her well in her nearly 104 years.

Italy, along with neighbouring France, has Europe’s largest population of what has been dubbed the “super old” – people who are at least 100. As the nation with the world’s highest number of COVID-19 deaths, Italy is looking to its super-old survivors for inspiration.

“I’m well, I’m well,” Zanusso said Tuesday during a video call with The Associated Press from the Maria Grazia Residence for the elderly in Lessona, a town in the northern region of Piedmont. “I watch TV, read the newspapers.”

Ada Zanusso
Ada Zanusso, right, poses with a nurse at the Maria Grazia care home in Lessona, northern Italy, after recovering

06:20 GMT – India identifies, seals coronavirus hot spots

Indian authorities have identified and sealed dozens of hot spots in the Indian capital and the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh state comprising residential districts to check the rising trajectory of new coronavirus infections.

Government statements late Wednesday said people will be supplied food, medicines and other supplies at their doorsteps and they will not be allowed to leave these areas

05:45 GMT –

I will be handing over the blog to my colleagues in Doha shortly.

A brief summary of this morning’s developments:

The US and UK both suffered their highest number of deaths from COVID-19 in a single day as global confirmed cases rose to 1.5 million. Flags were being flown at half-mast in New York, the worst-affected US state.

There are glimmers of hope in countries including South Korea and New Zealand where confirmed infections appear to be slowing.

In a deepening spat with the World Health Organization, Taiwan has rejected claims by WHO chief Tedros Adhanon Ghebreysus that it used racial slurs against him.

The first case of coronavirus has also been found among Amazon’s isolated Yanomami people. Brazil says a 15-year-old boy was diagnosed with the disease and is in hospital.

05:40 GMT – Fujifilm starts phase II clinical trial for Avigan in US COVID-19 patients

Japan’s Fujifilm is moving to the second phase of its clinical trial in the United States for its Avigan anti-flu drug.

The trial will involve about 50 patients at three hospitals in Massachusetts.

Fujifilm announced the third phase of the clinical trials in Japan on March 31. Favipiravir, the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Avigan, has a “mechanism of action that prevents the propagation of viruses”, the company says.

05:30 GMT – Pakistan starts giving cash grants to low-income families

Pakistan will start distributing cash grants worth Rs12,000 ($70) to low-income families on Thursday, reports Al Jazeera correspondent Asad Hashim.

About 35 million people registered for the payment, according to Sania Nishtar, a senior government official. After verification, about 12 million people (one person for each household) were found to be eligible for the one-time grant.

Pakistan currently has 3,713 confirmed cases of coronavirus. At least 62 people have died.

05:10 GMT – UN calls on Southeast Asian nations to protect health of migrants

The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia is calling on countries around the region to do “everything they can” to protect the health of migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Migrants in detention facilities should be released, forced returns suspended and “firewalls” erected between healthcare and immigration, the Bangkok-based office said.

“Migrants are an integral part of our communities, and only by including them fully will we be successful in overcoming COVID-19,” Regional Representative Cynthia Veliko said in a statement.

Migrant construction workers exit a truck after concluding day's work in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, March 26, 2020. A month-long state of emergency has been enforced in Thailand to allow its governm
Migrant construction workers in Bangkok before a month-long state of emergency was imposed.

04:40 GMT – Keep out: Remote Indigenous communities sealed off in Australia

Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are more likely than other Australians to suffer from chronic diseases, which puts them at greater risk from COVID-19.

04:30 GMT – First case found among Yanomami people in Brazil

Brazil’s health minister Luiz Henrique Mendetta says the first case of coronavirus has been diagnosed among the Yanomami people in the Amazon.

The patient, a 15-year-old boy, is in intensive care in hospital.

Mendetta said the discovery was “very worrying”.

04:10 GMT – Positive signs in New Zealand after two weeks of lockdown

New Zealand has recorded its lowest number of new coronavirus cases in nearly three weeks, reporting just 29 new cases in the past day, the fourth successive daily drop.

The country is halfway through a month-long national lockdown.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also announced stricter border measures requiring all returning nationals to go into a managed quarantine facility for two weeks. Previously, returning nationals with no symptoms of COVID-19 were allowed to isolate themselves at home.

04:00 GMT – South Korea sees continued slowdown in coronavirus

South Korea’s latest coronavirus update shows the outbreak there continues to slow.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement on Thursday there were 39 more cases, bringing the total to 10,423. The number of deaths rose by four to 204.

Testing, combined with isolation and monitoring, have helped South Korea get control of the virus. The government has also deployed technology to help in the fight including alerts to people’s smartphones to advise them of cases nearby and potential hotspots.

03:20 GMT – China tackling coronavirus cluster in northeastern province

Cases of coronavirus brought into China from overseas have reached their highest level in two weeks, with the northeastern province of Heilongjiang rushing to build a new hospital as more cases are brought in from Russia.

The National Health Commission reported 63 new cases on Wednesday, with 61 of those coming from overseas. That is the highest since March 25.

The country has imposed strict quarantine rules on anyone arriving in China from overseas.

02:30 GMT – ICRC steps up support in the Philippines crowded prisons

The International Committee for the Red Cross is stepping up efforts to help inmates in the Philippines’ overcrowded prison system, establishing four isolation centres for those confirmed with mild to moderate coronavirus or suspected of having the disease. 

A four tent, 48-bed isolation facility in the new Quezon City Jail site started operations with 17 detainees on Wednesday and will serve the entire Metro Manila region. The facility has  electricity, water and sanitation.

Philippines ICRC
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology with the support of the ICRC built a temporary isolation unit at the new Quezon City Jail site in less than three days. It opened on Wednesday to serve COVID-19-positive detainees and those with mild-to-moderate systems of the disease.

Three other sites are under development.

“Physical distancing is a privilege simply not available to people behind bars,” Boris Michel, ICRC head of delegation in the Philippines, said in a statement. “Overcrowding and limited health services mean infectious diseases like  COVID-19 can spread fast and wide inside detention facilities.” 

Philippines ICRC
The staff of the isolation facility prepare for the first arrivals on Wednesday.

01:30 GMT – Taiwan condemns ‘groundless’ accusations it attacked WHO chief

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday condemned accusations from the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) that it had used racist slurs against him, as “groundless”.

On Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “racist slurs” had been made against him, which he said had originated in Taiwan.

The island’s Foreign Ministry labelled the accusations “imaginary”.

“We are a mature and highly-accomplished advanced democratic country, and have absolutely not instigated our people to personally attack the WHO’s director-general, and have absolutely not made any racist comments,” it said.

Tedros’s comments were irresponsible and he should clarify them and apologise to Taiwan, it said.

00:10 GMT – Australian police take ‘black box’ from Ruby Princess

Australian police have interviewed the captain of a cruise ship that became the country’s biggest single source of coronavirus infections after hundreds of passengers – some with the virus – got off the ship in Sydney.

About 400 passengers from the Ruby Princess later tested positive for the virus and 15 have died.

The police are conducting a homicide investigation into the incident. The ship remains at a port south of Sydney with about 1,000 crew on board.

00:00 GMT – New York flags at half-mast to honour coronavirus dead

New York, the hardest-hit state in the US, on Wednesday flew flags at half-mast as the number of coronavirus-related deaths in a single day reached a record.

“Every number is a face,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “This virus attacked the vulnerable and attacked the weak and it’s our job as a society to protect the vulnerable.”

23:55 GMT – US CDC advises precautions for essential workers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US has released new guidance for people working in essentials areas such as healthcare and food suppliers who have been within 1.8 metres (six feet) of someone with a confirmed or suspected case of the coronavirus.

CDC Director Robert Redfield says the employee can return to work as long as they take their temperature before they go to work, wear a face mask at all times and practise social distancing.

Redfield said the employees should continue to stay home if they are sick. He also said employers should take the worker’s temperature before allowing them to come back to work.

23:40 GMT – Brazil president says country to buy materials for hydroxychloroquine

Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro says hydroxychloroquine, which is usually used for malaria, is saving the lives of people with COVID-19 and that Brazil will import raw materials from India to manufacture the drug.

Scientists say there is no conclusive evidence on the drug’s efficacy in treating COVID-19.

Twitter has previously deleted posts by Bolsonaro touting hydroxychloroquine.