Coronavirus: Latest from around the world, Friday March 27

Almost half-a-million people have been confirmed infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, figures on Friday morning (NZ time) showed.

About 22,300 were confirmed dead, up about 2000 in the past 24 hours.

The death toll in Italy has risen by 662 to 8165.

Europe

Switzerland's infections topped 10,000 as the government pumped money into the economy and army medical units helped hospitals handle the spreading epidemic.

Spain

Spain has registered 655 fatalities from the coronavirus over the past 24 hours - down from over 700 the previous day, the health ministry has reported as the total death toll from the epidemic in the country rose to more than 4000.

The overall number of coronavirus cases soared to 56,188 from 47,610 on Wednesday. The number of reported deaths from the virus rose to 4089 from 3434 on Wednesday, the ministry said.

Germany

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Germany has risen to 36,508 and 198 people have died of the disease, statistics from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases show.

Cases rose by 4995 compared with the previous day while the death toll climbed by 50, the tally showed.

Germany's relatively low rate of deaths so far from coronavirus is largely due to the high number of tests being carried out in the country, meaning authorities are simply aware of more cases, including milder ones, a senior virologist says.

Speaking at the launch of a government-backed alliance to promote research into the virus, Christian Drosten - a Berlin research virologist - said on Thursday that Germany was carrying out "extremely high numbers" of tests, averaging around 500,000 a week.

United Kingdom

Britain on Wednesday called on its citizens to help pick fruit and vegetables to ensure a supply of food during the global coronavirus crisis - work that would usually be largely carried out by migrant seasonal workers.

Britain's agricultural sector is heavily dependent on seasonal workers, but the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the flow of migrants into the country.

"We need to mobilise the British workforce to fill that gap and make sure our excellent fruit and vegetables are on people's plates over the summer months," Environment Minister George Eustice said in a statement.

"There are already brilliant recruitment efforts underway by industry and I would encourage as many people as possible to sign up."

The supply of seasonal workers was already under pressure following Britain's departure from the European Union.

Americas

United States

The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits has shot to a record of more than three million as strict measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic grind the country to a halt.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose to 3.28 million last week from a revised 282,000 the previous week, eclipsing the previous record of 695,000 set in 1982, the US Labor Department said on Thursday.

Economists had forecast claims would rise to 1 million, but estimates had ranged to as high as 4 million.

The jobless blowout was announced shortly after Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told NBC the US "may well be in recession", but progress in controlling the spread of the coronavirus will dictate when the economy can fully reopen.

His remarks were an unusual acknowledgement by a Fed chair that the economy may be contracting even before data confirms it.

"We are not experts in pandemic ... We would tend to listen to the experts. Dr. Fauci said something like the virus is going to set the timetable, and that sounds right to me," Jerome Powell said, in reference to Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"The first order of business will be to get the spread of the virus under control and then resume economic activity."

The US Senate has unanimously passed a $US2 trillion bill aimed at helping unemployed workers and industries hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as providing billions of dollars to buy urgently needed medical equipment.

By a vote of 96-0 the Senate passed the bill, sending it to the House of Representatives, which could vote sometime this week.

Canada

Canada wants its long border with the United States to remain free of a US military presence, even as cases of coronavirus grow rapidly in both nations, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo credit: Reuters

The Canadian leader's comments were in response to reports the Trump administration was considering the temporary deployment of troops near the frontier to prevent irregular border crossings, according to a senior government source.

"Canada and the United States have the longest unmilitarised borders in the world and it is very much in both of our interests for it to remain that way," Trudeau said.

"We have been in discussions with the United States on this," he told a news conference, without giving details.

Canada has already closed the border to non-essential travel from the United States as part of a bid to combat coronavirus. The state of New York, which shares a border with Canada, has been an epicenter of the US outbreak.

Trudeau said Ottawa was in constant touch with US authorities and would adjust border security measures if needed.

Asia

South Korea warned that it will deport foreigners while its citizens could face jail if they violate self-quarantine rules after a surge in imported cases.

Armenia and Kazakhstan reported their first deaths.

Coronavirus: Latest from around the world, Friday March 27
Photo credit: Getty

 

China

Mainland China has reported a second consecutive day of no new local coronavirus cases as the country's epicentre of the epidemic, Hubei province, opened its borders.

But imported cases have risen as Beijing ramps up controls to prevent a resurgence of infections.

A total of 67 new cases were reported as of end-Wednesday, up from 47 a day earlier, all of which were imported, China's National Health Commission said in a statement on Thursday.

The total number of cases now stands at 81,285.

The commission reported a total of 3287 deaths at the end of Wednesday, up six from the previous day.

All of the new patients on Wednesday were travellers who came to China from overseas, with the mainland reporting no locally transmitted infections.

Shanghai reported the most cases with 18 followed by Inner Mongolia region at 12 and Guangdong province at 11.

About 90 percent of all the imported cases are Chinese passport holders, Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui told a press conference on Thursday, adding that 40 percent of them are overseas Chinese students returning amid rising infections abroad.

"We understand some overseas students are eager to come home...But under the current circumstances, by staying put, they can avoid being cross-infected in the hurried journey home or getting stuck mid-journey when the countries they transit in tighten border controls," Luo said.

Meanwhile, the US ambassador to London has said China had endangered the world by suppressing information about the coronavirus outbreak thus allowing it to spread far beyond the Communist republic's borders.

"First it tried to suppress the news," Ambassador Woody Johnson wrote in an article for The Times newspaper published on Thursday, adding that Beijing had then selectively shared critical information while stonewalling international health authorities.

"Had China done the right things at the right time, more of its own population, and the rest of the world, might have been spared the most serious impact of this disease," the ambassador wrote.

"When the crisis finally abates we should take stock of the outcome and evaluate the costs of this breakdown in international collaboration," he said.

Japan

Japan is to set up a coronavirus taskforce, the government says, as it warned of a high risk of the wide spread of the virus but the economy minister says the government is not thinking of declaring a state of emergency for now.

Japan has had 1313 domestic cases of coronavirus as of Thursday morning, separate from 712 from a cruise ship that was moored near Tokyo last month, broadcaster NHK reported.

There have been 45 domestic deaths and 10 from the cruise ship.

"I told Prime Minister Abe there is a high risk of coronavirus spreading widely," Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters after a meeting Shinzo Abe and Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura.

Nishimura said Abe told him to "proceed swiftly with setting up the government taskforce" based on Kato's report.

But the government was not considering declaring a state of emergency at the moment, Nishimura said.

India

Three more people died overnight in India as the government sought to improve basic services to 1.3 billion people locked indoors.

India's central bank and major lenders are considering shutting down most branches across the country to prevent tens of thousands of employees from getting infected with the coronavirus, sources familiar with the plan say.

India is still very much a cash society and banks have been exempted from a 21-day lockdown that began this week as they are considered an essential service.

Under the plan, in major cities there would likely be only one bank open every five kilometres, the sources said, declining to be identified as it has not yet been publicly disclosed.

In the countryside, where 70 percent of people live and often rely only on cash, banks will likely operate on alternate days and redeploy staff to only allow disbursal of welfare cash to the poor, one of the sources said.

"The general guideline is that branch operation should largely be for villages just to take care of those people who are not familiar with digital transactions," a senior banker with a state-run bank told Reuters.

"Informally, banks are talking to each other to cope up with a situation where there will be some rush for cash withdrawal because it is expected the government will provide cash for the poor directly into their accounts."

Australasia

Australia entered 4000 healthcare workers into a trial to see if a century-old vaccine for tuberculosis can fight off the new coronavirus.

Africa

South Africa

The number of coronavirus cases in South Africa jumped to more than 900 on Thursday and President Cyril Ramaphosa called for richer countries to help African nations deal with the economic fallout, hours before the start of a countrywide lockdown.

Ramaphosa has been praised for ordering some of the toughest measures on the continent, including a 21-day lockdown to begin on Friday morning from midnight. He has deployed the army to support the police.

But the lockdown threatens to cripple an economy already beset by power cuts and shrinking since the end of last year.

Kenya

Kenya confirmed its first coronavirus death on Thursday, government spokesman Cyrus Oguna said, without providing further details.

Earlier on Thursday, the ministry of health reported three more cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of infected people in the East African country to 31.

About half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa still have a "narrowing" opportunity to curb the spread of the virus, the regional head of the World Health Organization said.

Reuters / Newshub.

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