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Coronavirus: NZ arrivals to self-isolate, Saudi halts flights

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The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surged past 5,000 on Saturday with the total number of cases rising to more than 140,000, as the infection continues to prompt countries to take unprecedented measures to help stave off a global health crisis.

Saudi Arabia said it would suspend international flights for two weeks in response to the outbreak while New Zealand announced a mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone entering the country, just hours after cancelling the one-year memorial service of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the pandemic, opening the door to providing what he said was about $50bn in federal aid to fight the disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) meanwhile said Europe has now become the “epicentre” for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The virus has also spread to several countries on the African continent, with Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Guinea, Mauritania and Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) all confirming their first cases on Friday and Saturday.

Here are the latest updates:

Saturday, March 14

09:20 GMT – Indonesia’s coronavirus cases rise to 96, 5 deaths 

Indonesia reported 27 more coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of confirmed infection to 96 in the Southeast Asian country, said Achmad Yurianto, a health ministry official.

The total number of deaths from coronavirus rose to five, Yurianto said.

Cases were found in several cities across the archipelago, including the capital Jakarta, some cities in western and central Java, Manado city on Sulawesi island and Pontianak on Borneo island, he said.

09:05 GMT – Namibia reports first two cases 

Namibia reported its first two cases of coronavirus, with a Spanish couple who arrived in the Southern African country on Wednesday both testing positive and quarantined, Health Minister Kalumbi Shangula said.

Despite the news, the government would continue with plans to celebrate Namibia’s Independence Day on March 21, Shangula told a press conference.

08:50 GMT – Philippines confirms 34 new coronavirus cases

The Philippines reported an 34 new confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing total to 98, ahead of the implementation of quarantine measures in the capital Manila.

It marked the largest single-day increase in confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian nation, which has eight coronavirus deaths.

Details of the new cases are being validated and authorities are verifying reports of additional cases, Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a news conference.

08:40 GMT – China’s imported cases surpassed the number of those locally transmitted 

China appears to be facing a new challenge as the number of infections coming from outside its borders
is now higher than the one of locally transmitted cases. The trend is taking place as China continues to slow the spread of the virus domestically.

The National Heath Commission confirmed 11 new cases, but seven of those were all detected in travellers coming into China from overseas, specifically Italy, the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Later on Saturday, Shanghai’s city government confirmed a further two imported cases in travellers from France and Spain.

08:20 GMT – Iran stops Abadan oil refinery expansion until mid-April 

Iran has decided to halt work on the expansion of its Abadan oil refinery until mid-April.

Coronavirus: Concerns rise over mental health impact of isolation

“In order to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, the second phase of the Abadan refinery project will be halted from next week until mid-Farvardin (first Iranian calendar month which starts on March 20),” the semi-official Mehr news agency said, citing Managing Director of National Iranian Oil Engineering and Construction Company (NIOEC) Saeed Sattari Naini.

In December 2017, China’s Sinopec Engineering (Group) Company, signed a deal with National Iranian Oil Engineering and Construction Company to carry out the work over a period of four years.

08:10 GMT – Cambodia to close schools in two cities 

Cambodia has ordered the closure of schools in the capital, Phnom Penh, and the popular tourist destination of Siem Reap in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, local media reported on Saturday.

An annual two-week school break next month during the Khmer New Year holiday would start early, the Education Ministry said.

Students will return to school after the holiday period, which will be observed April 14 to 16 this year.

Cambodia has so far reported seven infections in total.

07:42 GMT – Apple to close retail stores outside China 

Apple will close all its retail stores outside China until March 27 hoping to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission.

“We will be closing all of our retail stores outside of Greater China until March 27,” Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in a letter posted on the company’s website.

“In all of our offices, we are moving to flexible work arrangements worldwide outside of Greater China,” he added. “That means team members should work remotely if their job allows”.

07:21 GMT – Trump, coronavirus and the politics of a pandemic

Experts warn world leaders will have to overcome nationalist tendencies to deal with the rapidly spreading disease.

Read more here.

07:06 GMT – Jakarta shuts down schools for two weeks 

Schools across Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, will close for two weeks after 69 people tested positive and four people died from the novel coronavirus.

“People have been calling for these measures for a number of days now as this growing sense of anxiety builds up about the coronavirus outbreak,” said Al Jazeera’s Jessica Washington, reporting from Jakarta.

“There are concerns particularly around transparency and how Indonesia’s government is handling this crisis,” Washington said.

06:54 GMT – Saudi to suspend international flights

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minustry said on Saturday it would suspend international flights for two weeks in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“The Kingdom’s government decided to suspend international flights for two weeks (Starting from Sunday March 15th) as part of its efforts to prevent the spread of #CoronaVirus,” it wrote on Twitter.

The kingdom, which has registered 86 cases so far but no deaths, had already halted flights to some countries and closed schools and universities.

It has also suspended the Umra year-round pilgrimage to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

06:01 GMT Saturday – Metro Manila imposes curfew during coronavirus lockdown

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), which oversees the Philippine capital and its surrounding districts, has announced that it is imposing a curfew in the metropolis from Sunday.

MMDA Chairman Jojo Garcia told reporters on Saturday that 17 Metro Manila mayors have approved the curfew from 8pm to 5am local time.

The move follows an announcement by President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday that the entire capital region, with a population of more than 12 million, would be placed under lockdown from Sunday.

There are now six deaths and 64 confirmed coronavirus cases in the Philippines.

05:40 GMT – US Congress passes coronavirus relief package

The US House of Representatives early on Saturday overwhelmingly passed a coronavirus relief package for Americans hit by the pandemic.

The measure, which seeks additional fund amounting to $50bn, passed by 363 votes to 40 and will now move to the US Senate.

President Donald Trump tweeted his support for the bill before the vote and urged both Republicans and Democrats to back it. – AFP news agency

05:30 GMT – Thailand reports seven new coronavirus cases, total at 82

Thailand reported seven new coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in the Southeast Asian country to 82, health officials said.

One person has died so far, according to Reuters news agency.

04:09 GMT – New Zealand says everyone entering country must self-isolate to contain coronavirus

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday that everyone entering the country from midnight on Sunday must self isolate for 14 days in an effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

People from small South Pacific island countries, which currently have no reported cases, will be exempted, Ardern said in a news conference.

New Zealand has a large South Pacific islander population.

All cruise ships will also be told not to come to New Zealand until June 30, she said.

Ardern said these were “far-reaching and unprecedented” measures to tackle a global pandemic. New Zealand has six confirmed cases and has not recorded any deaths. (Reuters news agency)

04:03 GMT – Colombia shuts border with Venezuela

Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez has ordered the border with Venezuela closed as part of the country’s coronavirus containment measures.

As of Friday, there were nine coronavirus cases in Colombia, and at least two cases in Venezuela.

The two countries share a 2,200-km (1,370-mile) border that is crossed by thousands of Venezuelans each day, searching for food and medicine.

More than 4.5 million Venezuelans have left their country in recent years amid its economic crisis, many arriving in Colombia.

04:03 GMT – US military to halt domestic travel 

The US military has announced that it will halt all domestic travel, with some exceptions, for service members, defence department civilians and their families amid the fast-spreading coronavirus.

The memo, signed by the deputy secretary of defence, David Norquist, said the policy would go into effect on Monday through May 11, according the Reuters news agency.

It added that exceptions could be granted for mission essential travel, travel necessary for humanitarian reasons and travel warranted due to extreme hardship.

03:59 GMT – Czech govt closing most shops, restaurants

The Czech government will shut most shops and restaurants from 6am local time on Saturday as part of measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, it said in an overnight statement.

Exceptions on the shop ban will include food stores, pharmacies and petrol stations.

03:05 GMT – Cambodia bans entries of foreigners from five countries

Cambodia has announced a ban on the entry of foreigners from Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the US for 30 days, the Khmer Times reported on Saturday.

The ban will take effort on Tuesday, March 17. There are an estimated seven cases reported in Cambodia.

The deadly coronavirus pandemic will cost world tourism at least $22bn, according to the head of the World Travel and Tourism Council [Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP]

02:25 GMT – China coronavirus death toll hits 3,189

Mainland China had 11 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on March 13, the country’s National Health Commission said on Saturday, up from eight cases a day earlier.

That brings the total number of confirmed cases on the mainland so far to 80,824.

The death toll from the outbreak in China had reached 3,189 as of the end of Friday, up by 13 from the previous day.

All of the latest deaths were in the central province of Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak, and 10 of them were in Hubei’s provincial capital of Wuhan.

 The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 80,824. [Ng Han Guan/AP]

02:13 GMT – Philippines reports sixth coronavirus death

The Philippine Department of Health announced on Saturday the death of another coronavirus patient – the first reported from the southern island of Mindanao.

The health department statement said that a 54-year-old resident of Metro Manila died on Friday night at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center in the city of Cagayan de Oro.

The Philippines has at least 64 confirmed coronavirus cases. President Rodrigo Duterte has imposed a lockdown of the capital Metro Manila beginning on Sunday.

Village emergency response teams in Metro Manila undergo training on Friday in using protective suits when responding to potential cases of coronavirus [Rolex dela Pena/EPA]

01:15 GMT – Mexican coronavirus tally increases to 26

Mexico has registered a rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 26 from 15 a day earlier, Reuters news agency reported on Saturday, quoting the Mexican health ministry.

There have been reports that Mexico is considering measures at its northern border to slow the spread of the virus from the United States.

Earlier, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell was quoted as saying that the contagion from the United States was a threat.

23:47 GMT Friday – Mauritania confirms first coronavirus case

Mauritania’s health ministry confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the West African country in a statement on Friday, according to Reuters news agency.

23:10 GMT Friday – UK plans to ban mass gatherings next week

The United Kingdom is planning to introduce emergency laws next week to ban mass gatherings in an attempt to curb the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters news agency reported, citing Sky News late on Friday.

“We have drafted emergency legislation to give the government the powers it needs to deal with coronavirus, including powers to stop mass gatherings and compensate organisations,” Sky News quoted the source as saying, according to the report.

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