Coronavirus updates: Europe’s key economies at standstill, as death toll rises worldwide

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An emergency contingent of Cuban doctors and nurses arrive at Italy’s Malpensa airport after travelling from Cuba to help Italy battle the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), near Milan, Italy, March 22, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continues to increase acorss Europe and elsewhere in the world, bringing the key economies of the European Union – the new epicenter of the fast-spreading disease — to a standstill.

Globally, more than 14,700 people have died since the virus emerged in China late last year, according to the latest estimates. Some 340,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 worldwide.

Over 99,000 patients have been recovered so far from the flu-like disease, which first showed up in China’s Wuhan city and later spread to other parts of the world.

Italy reports 650 new deaths

In Italy, the worst-hit country outside China, officials reported 651 new deaths on Sunday, bringing the total figure to 5,476.

It was an increase of 13.5 percent but down from Saturday’s figure when 793 people died, health officials said Monday.

The total number of infections in Italy rose to 59,138 from a previous 53,578, up by 10.4 percent, according to the Civil Protection Agency.

The hardest-hit northern region of Lombardy remained in a critical situation, with 3,456 deaths and 27,206 cases recorded on Sunday.

An Italian staff is at work at the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital that is being set up in Cremona, March 21, 2020. (Photo by AP)

The government announced a travel ban and ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses, including car, clothing and furniture makers.

The head of the Italian government’s coronavirus relief efforts, Domenico Arcuri, said the country was “at war” with the virus.

“All wars are won in two ways, with one’s own army and with the help of ones' own allies,” he said.

Germany at a virtual standstill, Merkel in quarantine

The virus spread has also brought Germany — the European Union’s largest economy — to a virtual standstill as Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered a ban on gatherings of more than two people for the next two weeks.

Exceptions to the rules are being made for work-related gatherings.

“The great aim is to gain time in the fight against the virus,” Merkel said Sunday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in self-quarantine following exposure to infected person.

Later in the day, the chancellor decided to immediately quarantine herself in her home after a doctor, who had earlier administered a pneumococcal vaccine to her, tested positive for the virus, according to government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

Merkel will be regularly tested over the coming days and will continue to conduct her duties as chancellor from home.

Germany is one of the severely-affected countries, with more than 23,000 infections, according to a data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

At least 92 people have died from the virus in the country, which has already closed its borders temporarily with France, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark and Luxembourg.

Spain is ‘at war’ with COVID-19

Meanwhile, Spain, the second-worst affected country in Europe after Italy, reported more than 1,700 deaths on Sunday.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez extended the state of emergency until April 11, saying his country is “at war.”

He called on Europe to launch an enormous, coordinated public investment program to contain the pandemic.

UK coronavirus death toll reaches 280

Across the United Kingdom, approximately 5,600 people have tested positive and around 280 people have died due to coronavirus infection.

Authorities have advised people to stay home and avoid unnecessary travels, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Sunday that he would introduce stricter measures if Britons fail to heed the advisories.

The British premier threatened to consider tougher measures to enforce social distancing if people continued to congregate in parks and markets.

More US states impose stay-at-home restrictions

More than 35,000 people in America have gone down with the virus out of whom nearly 460 have died, according to

On Sunday, nearly one in three Americans was ordered to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic with Ohio, Louisiana and Delaware being the latest states to enforce broad restrictions, along with the city of Philadelphia.

Previously, New York, California, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey, home to 101 million Americans combined, had been implementing stay-at-home measures.

All cases in China imported

China, which has effectively controlled the local transmission of the disease, is now struggling to contain the number of infections entering from abroad.

China’s National Health Commission reported 39 new confirmed cases. All of them had arrived from abroad, many of whom are Chinese students returning home.

In the meantime, the capital Beijing decided to divert all international flights arriving from Monday to airports in other cities, including Shanghai and as far west as Xian, where passengers will undergo virus screening.

The capital city reported 10 new imported cases, the National Health Commission said Monday.

As of Sunday, the total accumulated number of confirmed cases in mainland China stood at 81,093.

With nine new deaths reported on Sunday, the death toll from the outbreak in mainland also reached 3,270.

South Korea reports lowest number of COVID-19

South Korea, meanwhile, reported its lowest number of new cases of infection since the peak in late February.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 64 new cases on Monday. The figure takes the national tally to 8,961. The death toll rose by one to 110.

Indian, Uzbek capital cities under lockdown

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on Monday called on people to save themselves from the disease by following instructions as authorities imposed a lockdown on the capital New Delhi — a city of 18 million people.

The lockdown will last until the end of this month.

Indian health officials reported 415 cases of the infection and seven deaths on Monday.

Health experts, however, warned that a big jump in infections could be imminent in the country.

“Please save yourself, save your family, follow the instructions seriously,” Modi said on Twitter.

Indian authorities also banned gatherings of more than five people in several states, warning of legal action against people violating the ban.

Indian families bang pans and clap to cheer health workers following the coronavirus outbreak, in New Delhi, March 22, 2020. (Photo by AP)

In Central Asia, Uzbekistan similarly ordered a lockdown in the capital Tashkent on Sunday.

All businesses in Tashkent, except for food and medicine retailers, were to switch to remote work while public transportation in the city of 2.5 million would be shut down.

Authorities also made wearing protective masks mandatory in all major cities in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Those who refuse to wear masks in public in any of the major Uzbek cities would be fined $22 at first and $67 for repeat offences.

Uzbekistan, with a population of 34 million people, has confirmed 43 cases of the disease — all but one of the cases were registered in Tashkent.

The country has already closed its borders.

Venezuela prohibits layoffs over outbreak

In Latin America, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced a series of economic measures to address the financial fallout as the coronavirus has far infected 77 people in the country.

“We have the conscience and the absolute decision to protect all jobs in the country, to protect the entire operation of all companies and businesses in the country,” Maduro said.

The country has not reported any deaths from the viral infection, but the government has declared a state of alarm, imposing a full month-long quarantine in the country.

Venezuela’s workers spray disinfectant in the capital Caracas, March 22, 2020. (Photo by AP)

Last week, Maduro made a request for a loan to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to fight the outbreak.

The Washington-based institution, however, rejected the request. It was Venezuela’s first loan request to the IMF since 2001.

In January 2019, Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaido unilaterally declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela, challenging the outcome of the 2018 presidential election and handing the country a national and international crisis.

Some governments opposed to Maduro, the US included, now recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s leader.

Egypt top military official dies of COVID-19

Egypt’s military said a senior officer died Sunday from the coronavirus infection.

The military said Major General Khaled Shaltout had contracted the disease while participating in sterilization operations, which the military has been carrying out across the country.

Egypt has so far reported 300 cases and 10 deaths from the epidemic.

A cargo flight containing over 6 million medical items including face masks, test kits, face shields and protective suits arrives in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from China, March 22, 2020. (Photo by AP)

Elsewhere in North Africa, Morocco said it extended the state of emergency, which came into force on March 20 for a month.

The government also approved a draft law that seeks strict legal action against citizens who defy the emergency state.

Anyone who defies the rules will receive a sentence ranging between one and three months in prison.

Convicted suspects will have to pay a fine ranging between $30 and $132.

The kingdom has confirmed 61 cases of infections and two deaths.

Africa slams Trump’s ‘discriminating’ of virus

African officials on Sunday strongly criticized US President Donald Trump for referring to COVID-19 as “the Chinese virus.” 

The African Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the Ethiopian government said such remarks were misleading and shifted the world’s focus from the serious task of fighting the pandemic.

“I think this is clearly a global fight,” said John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC.

He said that the fight “requires global solidarity and global coordination, and no stigmatization and no discrimination.”

The continent with 1.3 billion people has so far registered around 1,100 cases of coronavirus. The cases of infections spread across 43 countries, with 39 deaths. 

Africa has been a major concern for health experts due to its poor health system.


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