Italy tightens lockdown as coronavirus deaths mount: Live updates – Al Jazeera English

Italy ordered all but the most essential businesses to close until April 3, tightening a lockdown against the coronavirus, after nearly 800 people died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, on Saturday.

“Only production activities deemed vital for national production will be allowed,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a video posted to Facebook, but did not go into detail on the proposals to come into force via emergency decree on Sunday.


Italy recorded 793 deaths on Saturday, with France and Spain and Germany also reporting steep rises in confirmed cases and fatalities.

Nearly 13,000 people around the world have now died from the disease, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University in the US. More than 304,500 people have been diagnosed with the infection, while nearly 92,000 have recovered.

Here are all the latest updates: Sunday, March 22

10:15 GMT – Lockdown to combat coronavirus not enough: WHO

Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s top emergency expert, said locking down societies to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus will not suffice to exterminate it. 

“What we really need to focus on is finding those who are sick, those who have the virus, and isolate them, find their contacts and isolate them,” Mike Ryan said in an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“The danger right now with the lockdowns … if we don’t put in place the strong public health measures now, when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, the danger is the disease will jump back up.”

9:50 GMT – Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus hits 1,685 

Iran has announced 129 new deaths caused by the novel coronavirus, raising to 1,685 the official death toll in one of the worst-hit countries along with Italy and China. 

“There were 1,028 new confirmed infected cases in the past 24 hours … and 7,913 people have recovered,” said health ministry spokesperson Kianush Jahanpur.

Members of firefighters wear protective face masks, amid fear of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as they disinfect the streets, ahead of the Iranian New Year Nowruz, March 20, in Tehran, Iran March 18

Members of firefighters wear protective face masks as they disinfect the streets of Tehran [Ali Khara/Reuters]

9:30 GMT – Malaysia reports 123 new coronavirus cases, total at 1,306

Malaysia has confirmed 123 new coronavirus cases, taking the total to 1,306 cases, with 10 deaths. 

The health ministry said 34 of the new cases were linked to a religious gathering held late last month. Malaysia has the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia.

9:10 GMT – Indonesia registers 64 new coronavirus cases, 10 deaths 

Indonesia confirmed 64 new coronavirus cases and 10 new deaths, a health ministry official told reporters on Sunday, bringing the total number to 514 and 48 respectively.

Nine coronavirus patients have recovered, health ministry spokesman, Achmad Yurianto said, bringing the total number of recoveries to 29.

A girl wearing a protective face mask and synthetic gloves sits on luggages as she queues for temperature checking amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Halim Perdanakusuma airport in J

More than 500 people have tested positive for the virus in Indonesia [Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]

9:05 GMT – Britain to start producing new ventilators 

Britain has received the first prototypes of new ventilators to help the health service handle the coronavirus pandemic, and production of new machines should start soon, housing minister Robert Jenrick said on Sunday.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by offers of support. There’s now a number of manufacturers who are working with us. We’re in receipt of some of the first prototypes, and we expect that manufacturing can start quite quickly,” Jenrick said in an interview with Sky News, adding that around 13,000 ventilators were currently available to Britain’s National Health Service.

“But we do need more, and we’re trying to ramp up production as quickly as we can.”

9:00 GMT – Czech coronavirus cases rise to 1,047 

The number of coronavirus cases in the Czech Republic had risen to 1,047, according to the latest Health Ministry tally.

The country of 10.7 million people had 158 new cases on Saturday, the ministry said.

Six people have recovered and there have been no deaths. Health workers had tested 15,584 people as of Saturday.

08:45 GMT – NHS nurse appeals shoppers not to panic buy

“You just need to stop it!” urged a UK critical care nurse breaking down in tears as she left a supermarket unable to find any vegetables and fruits to eat. 

Coronavirus: UK nurse in tears over panic buying

08:24 GMT – Romania confirms first coronavirus death

A 67-year-old man who had been suffering from terminal cancer is Romania’s first death due to coronavirus. 

The deceased was confirmed to be infected on March 18 and was being treated in a hospital in the southern Romanian city of Craiova.

Romania, which has recorded 367 cases of coronavirus to date, declared a state of emergency on March 16. 

Illuminated by police car lights, a female police officer, left, wearing a protective mask stands at a roadblock in the vicinity of one of the hospital where COVID-19 infected patients are under trea

Illuminated by police car lights, a female police officer, left, wearing a protective mask stands near one of the hospital where COVID-19 infected patients are under treatment in Bucharest, Romania. [Andreea Alexandru/AP] 

08:11 GMT – Libya UN-recognised government imposes curfew 

Fighting continues in Libya as fears of coronavirus spread

As fighting in the south of Libya’s capital continues, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) declared a night-time curfew starting 16:00 GMT to 04:00 GMT to keep the coronavirus out of areas it controls.

The internationally-recognised GNA has also ordered the closure of restaurants, cafes and party while funeral and wedding ceremonies have been banned.

No cases have been reported in Libya to day, but experts fear an outbreak could be catastrophic due to the country’s gutted health system.

08:01 GMT – Iran’s Khamenei skeptical about US offer to help Iran

The offer by the US to help Iran fight the coronavirus pandemic is strange, said Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on March 20, 2020 shows him delivering a speech on the occasion of Noruz, the Iranian New Year, in Tehran. - No

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered a broadcast speech on the occasion of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year [AFP]

“Several times Americans have offered to help Iran to contain the virus. Aside from the fact that there are suspicions about this virus being created by America […] their offer is strange since they face shortages in their fight against the virus,” Khamenei said during a speech in Tehran broadcast live across Iran marking Nowruz, the Persian New Year. 

“Iran has the capability to overcome any kind of crisis including coronavirus outbreak.”

07:45 GMT – China witnessing increase in imported cases 

For a fourth consecutive day, China reported an increase in the number of cases imported from overseas, mostly from Chinese people returning home. 

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The country recorded 46 new cases, all but one coming from outside China, amid a drastic reduction in the number of domestically transmitted infections. 

China is stepping up measures to identify new cases, including diverting all flights due to arrive in Beijing to an other airport where passengers will undergo virus screening, government agencies said.

07:24 GMT – Tokyo considering postponing Olympics: Reuters 

Tokyo Olympics Games’ organisers are considering alternatives to holding the event this summer, two sources told Reuters news agency. 

If confirmed, the news would mark a change in direction by the Japanese government which has so far excluded postponing the Olympics.

While the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted sports events around the world, Japan has been steadfast in saying that the Games will go on. 

The top government spokesman said on Wednesday that Tokyo was not preparing for postponement of the event which is planned to start on July 2020. 

07:10 GMT – Bike and auto makers to halt activities in India

India’s giant bike maker Hero Motocorp is about to stop operations at all its manufacturing facilities until March 31 to protect its employees from the outbreak.

With plants in India, Bangladesh and Colombia, Hero accounts for more than 35 percent of the two-wheeler market in India.

Also, US carmaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced it will suspend production at its plant in the western Indian state of Maharashtra until March 31.

A motorist rides through deserted Rajpath road during a one-day Janata (civil) curfew imposed as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in New Delhi on March 22, 2020. - Nearly one bil

A motorist rides through deserted New Dehli during a one-day curfew imposed as a preventive measure against the coronavirus, in New Delhi. [Sajjad Hussain/AFP]

06:45 GMT – Russia to send help to Italy 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to help Italy to contain the spread of coronavirus.

In a phone call with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Putin offered his support in the form of mobile disinfection vehicles and specialists to help the worst-hit Italian regions, according to the Kremlin. 

The Russian defence ministry said military transport planes would deliver eight mobile brigades of military medics, special disinfection vehicles and other medical equipment to Italy starting from Sunday.

Italy coronavirus death toll rises by 793 to 4,825


I will shortly be handing over this blog to my colleague Virginia Pietromarchi in Doha.

Here’s a summary of the main developments on Sunday morning:

– Italy has announced a tightening of its lockdown with all non-essential businesses ordered to close.

– Singapore has closed its borders to short-term visitors and transit passengers.

– Australia has closed beaches, and is considering more ‘draconian’ measures to get people to follow social distancing guidelines.

– Gaza has announced its first two cases of the disease.

05:45 GMT – Malaysia announces ninth death

A 48-year-old doctor has died from coronavirus in Malaysia, becoming the first medical worker to die from the disease.

The man, who was being treated in the northern state of Perlis, had a history of travel to Turkey, the health ministry said. He had not been involved in treating people with COVID-19. 

The country on Sunday deployed the army to assist the police in getting people to follow a restricted movement order that is in force until March 31.

05:25 GMT – Malaysia mosque event organiser says worshippers cooperating with health authorities

People who attended a mass gathering at a mosque in Malaysia that is now linked to 840 confirmed coronavirus cases across Southeast Asia are cooperating with authorities, an organiser said, after the government said thousands of them were still being traced.

The four-day event is connected with 60 percent of Malaysia’s 1,183 cases, as well as clusters elsewhere in the region including Brunei, Cambodia and Singapore.

“After hearing reports of thousands or participants yet to be screened, many had returned to their district health departments or hospitals repeatedly until their names and details were recorded,” Abdullah Cheong, a leader of the event’s organising team, said in a statement on Saturday.

05:15 GMT – Ecuador’s health minister replaced after surge in coronvirus cases

Ecuador‘s health minister stepped down on Saturday, just hours after authorities announced the number of confirmed cases had shot up to more than 500, with seven deaths.

Hours after the announcement, officials confirmed the resignation of Health Minister Catalina Andramuno, without providing details, and appointed Juan Carlos Zevallos, a doctor who has worked in several universities, as her replacement.

The labour minister also resigned, a presidential announcement said.

04:35 GMT – First two cases confirmed in Gaza Strip

The Palestinian Health Authority has confirmed the first two cases of coronavirus in the occupied Gaza Strip. 

The two people had recently returned from Pakistan.

Gaza prepares for potential coronavirus outbreak

04:10 GMT – Japan suspects new virus cluster in southwest

Japan’s Oita prefecture confirmed two new coronavirus infections at a medical centre on Sunday, bringing the total at the facility to 14 and making it a suspected cluster, according to Japanese newswire Kyodo.

Two female nurses who work at the Oita Medical Center, one in her 20s and another in her 50s, were diagnosed with the coronavirus although they showed only mild symptoms, Kyodo said.

The medical centre has already confirmed 12 cases, and the southwestern prefecture is conducting tests for about 600 staff and patients who are or were hospitalised there, they said.

Japan has recorded 1,055 cases of domestically-transmitted cases of coronavirus as of Sunday, up 40 from the previous day, according to public broadcaster NHK.

04:00 GMT – US Vice President tests negative for coronavirus

The office of US Vice President Mike Pence says he and his wife have tested negative for the coronavirus.

The couple took the test after one of Pence’s staff was diagnosed with the virus.

03:50 GMT – Singapore closes to short-term visitors and transit passengers

Singapore has decided to close its borders to all short-term visitors given the “heightened risk” of the coronavirus. 

The Ministry of Health says the measures are necessary because 80 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past three days came from overseas.

The country will also stop transit through Singapore. 

The measures come into effect from 23 March at 11:59pm local time (15:59 GMT). 


Singapore’s Changi Airport, one of Asia’s major hubs, has emptied as the coronavirus has prompted border closures [File: Edgar Su/Reuters]

03:10 GMT – Scepticism as North Korea claims no cases

North Korea watchers are expressing scepticism – and some alarm – about the government’s claim that the country is coronavirus-free.

Sources have informed them of a number of cases, and they worry that if it begins to spread within the wider community, the consequences would be devastating.

Al Jazeera’s Kelly Kasulis has the story.

03:00 GMT – Turkey confirmed cases rise, partial curfew for vulnerable

Turkey’s confirmed cases of coronavirus rose to 947, and the number of dead to 21, the health minister said on Saturday.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said some 2,953 tests had been conducted in the previous 24 hours.

The country is also planning a partial curfew for citizens over the age of 65 and those with chronic diseases. The interior ministry is expected to announce more details later.

02:50 GMT – Cases rise in the Philippines

The Philippines has reported 73 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 380, the health ministry said on Sunday.

It also announced six more deaths related to coronavirus, bringing total fatalities to 25.

Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire told DZBB radio that the increase in confirmed cases could be “artificial” because the government is catching up on a backlog of tests

02:40 GMT – India in 14-hour curfew to limit virus spread 

India is about an hour into a 14-hour curfew as part of its attempts to curb the spread of the virus. 

All citizens have been told to stay indoors from 01:30 to 15:30 GMT.

“Let us all be a part of this curfew, which will add tremendous strength to the fight against the COVID-19 menace,” Modi tweeted minutes before the curfew commenced.

01:30 GMT – South Korea reports 98 new cases of coronavirus

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 98 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the national total to 8,897.

01:20 GMT – Wuhan reports fourth day with no new cases

Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged late last year, said it had no new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, marking the fourth straight day without a new infection.

China reported 46 new confirmed cases, all but one of them imported from overseas.

It also said six more people died from COVID-19.

01:00 GMT – Australia to consider ‘draconian measures’ to enforce social distancing

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said states and territories would consider draconian measures to enforce social distancing after thousands of people thronged the country’s beaches amid unusually warm weather.

Most of Sydney’s main beaches, including Bondi Beach, were closed on Sunday.

“The measures that we will be considering tonight means that state premiers and chief ministers may have to take far more draconian measures to enforce social distancing,” Morrison said in Canberra.


A lifeguard explains the closure of Bondi Beach to surfers and swimmers after thousands of people flocked there in recent days, defying social distancing advice over COVID-19 [Loren Elliott/Reuters]

00:15 GMT – Conte says Italy will further tighten lockdown to tackle virus

Italy has ordered all but the most essential businesses to close until April 3.

“It is the most difficult crisis in our post-war period,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a video posted on Facebook, adding “only production activities deemed vital for national production will be allowed.”

Conte did not go into detail on which businesses would have to close under the order which is expected to come into effect through an emergency decree on Sunday.

Supermarkets, pharmacies, postal and banking services will remain open and essential public services, including transport, will be ensured.

“We are slowing down the country’s production engine, but we are not stopping it,” Conte said.

00:00 GMT – UK urges more vulnerable to ‘stay at home’

Some 1.5 million people identified by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) as being at higher risk of severe illness if they contract coronavirus are being urged to stay at home to protect themselves.

The people include those who have received organ transplants, those living with severe respiratory conditions or specific cancers, and some receiving certain types of drug treatments.

They will be contacted by their doctor and strongly advised to stay at home for a period of at least 12 weeks.

I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Read all the latest updates from yesterday (March 21) here.

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