The number of declared coronavirus cases in Europe topped 250,000, more than half of which are in hard-hit Italy and Spain. But over the last 24 hours, both countries reported improvements.
Spain registered 655 fatalities from the coronavirus – down from over 700 on Wednesday, while Italy confirmed a lower rate of infections.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) European office said it saw “encouraging signs”, cautioning it was too early to say whether the worst had passed.
More than 487,000 people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. More than 117,000 have recovered, while more than 22,000 people have died.
Here are the latest updates:
Thursday, March 26
12:46 GMT – US weekly jobless claims surge to a record 3.28 million: Live updates
The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits soared to record of more than 3 million last week as strict measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic ground the country to a sudden halt, unleashing a wave of layoffs that likely brought an end to the longest employment boom in US history.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose to 3.28 million in the latest 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 polled by Reuters had forecast claims would rise to 1 million, but estimates had ranged to as high as 4 million.
12:37 GMT – Unanswered questions as Nigeria braces for lockdown
Nigerians are bracing for a partial lockdown from Thursday as authorities try to contain the spread of coronavirus cases in the country of about 200 million people.
Read more here.
12:05 GMT – Swiss coronavirus cases top 10,000, with 161 deaths
Switzerland has 10,714 confirmed coronavirus infections and 161 people have died of the disease, the Federal Office of Public Health said.
The numbers were up to date as of 07:15 GMT, it said.
11:48 GMT – Coronavirus tally rises to 840 in Russia
The number of the coronavirus cases in Russia rose to 840 with 182 confirmed diagnosis over the last 24 hours, authorities said.
Overall, two people, both in Moscow, have died while 38 recovered, according to the latest figures on the official online portal for COVID-19 information.
Moscow also takes the lead in the number of cases as more than half of all the coronavirus patients reside in the capital. Similarly, 136 of 182 new infections were reported there.
11:29 GMT – Five things to watch in lockdown
From the woman hunting Boko Haram to the children of the US opioid crisis – films to take your mind off coronavirus.
Read more here.
11:06 GMT – UK flight brings back stranded citizens from Peru
The first British-government chartered British Airways flight from Peru landed, bringing back stranded citizens, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said.
11:04 GMT – Saudi Arabia releases 250 immigration offenders
Saudi Arabia has released 250 foreign detainees held on non-violent immigration and residency offences as part of efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus, the state-backed Human Rights Commission (HRC) said.
“Releasing them for eventual repatriation will help decrease the threat for inmates of the detention centres without compromising public security in any way,” HRC President Awwad al-Awwad said in a statement, adding that more releases were expected.
10:56 GMT – WHO Europe sees ‘encouraging signs’
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) European office said it saw “encouraging signs” as Italy reported a lower rate of infections of the new coronavirus, cautioning it was too early to say whether the worst had passed.
“While the situation remains very serious, we are starting to see some encouraging signs. Italy, which has the highest number of cases in the region, has just seen a slightly lower rate of increase, though it is still too early to say that the pandemic is peaking in that country,” Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, told a press conference.
10:54 GMT – Spain reports 655 more deaths
Spain registered 655 fatalities from the coronavirus over the past 24 hours – down from over 700 on Wednesday, the health ministry reported as the total death toll from the epidemic in the country rose to over 4,000.
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 4,089 from 3,434 on Wednesday, the ministry said.
10:51 GMT – Iran death toll rises to 2,234
A total of 157 people in Iran have died of coronavirus over the last 24 hours, pushing the death toll up to 2,234, said Iranian health authorities.
Health Ministry spokesperson Kianoush Jahanpour said 2,389 people were confirmed to have contracted the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 29,406.
Also, 10,457 people have recovered from COVID-19, according to health officials.
09:48 GMT – Japan PM Abe sets up coronavirus task force
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has established a task force under the country’s revised emergency law to deal with the rise in coronavirus infections and deaths.
It is necessary for people to act as one to overcome what can be described as a national crisis, Abe said in Tokyo.
Japan will ban entry from 21 European countries as well as Iran, to take effect from March 27, Abe said.
09:47 GMT – Uzbekistan locks down two more cities
Uzbekistan is locking down the cities of Namangan and Andijan to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the two cities’ municipal authorities said.
Uzbekistan, which has already locked down its capital Tashkent, has reported 65 cases of the disease, including some in the densely populated Fergana valley where Namangan and Andijan are located.
09:37 GMT – Uganda’s Bobi Wine releases song raising awareness about coronavirus
Ugandan musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine has released a song to raise awareness about the coronavirus pandemic as his country imposes new restriction in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.
Read more here.
09:18 GMT – Malaysia reports 235 new cases
Malaysia reported 235 new coronavirus cases in its biggest daily jump, bringing the total number of cases to 2,031.
The number of deaths from coronavirus rose to 23, the health ministry said.
Malaysia’s total number of cases has now doubled in a week. On Wednesday, the government extended curbs on travel and movement to until April 14th to contain the spread of the virus.
08:52 GMT – Indonesia reports 103 new cases, 20 more deaths
Indonesia has confirmed 103 new coronavirus cases, bringing the Southeast Asian country’s total to 893, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto said.
The number of new deaths due to coronavirus rose by 20, taking the total number of deaths to 78, he said, adding that a total of 35 people had recovered from the virus.
08:36 GMT – Philippines reports 7 new deaths, 71 more cases
The Philippine health ministry reported seven new coronavirus deaths and 71 new confirmed infections.
It brings the country’s confirmed cases to 707 and deaths to 45 so far, among them six doctors, Health Secretary Francisco Duque told a regular news conference.
He said case numbers would rise in the coming days as more tests are carried out.
08:20 GMT – China says no new cases confirmed locally
China’s National Health Commission (NHC) said six more people died of the virus and 67 new cases were confirmed, but all of them were imported.
“Hubei reported no new cases of confirmed infection, no new cases of suspected infections, and 6 deaths, 5 in Wuhan,” the NHC said.
08:09 GMT – South Korea: 97-year-old recovers from coronavirus
A woman, 97, has recovered from the coronavirus after a two-week treatment in South Korea’s Pohang Medical Centre.
She was discharged and placed in self-isolation at home to protect her from re-infection, The Korea Times reported.
The oldest patient on the course of recovery in the same hospital is a 104-year-old woman, the report said.
07:52 GMT – Moscow to close all non-essential shops
Moscow will close all shops except for pharmacies and grocery stores, the city’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.
This measure, which also includes the closure of restaurants, cafes and bars, will last from March 28 until April 5, Sobyanin said in a statement.
07:43 GMT – Nine doctors die from coronavirus in Philippines
Nine doctors have died in the Philippines from the coronavirus, the country’s top medical association said, as hospitals were overwhelmed and medics complained about a lack of protection on the front lines.
The Philippine Medical Association said health workers were not getting enough protection.
“If it were up to me, test the front-liners first and test them again after seven days. Doctors could be carriers themselves,” Benito Atienza, vice president of the Philippine Medical Association, told AFP news agency.
07:37 GMT – UK says 560,000 volunteers signed up to help NHS
Britain’s Health Minister Matt Hancock said 560,000 people had volunteered to help the National Health Service during the coronavirus crisis, more than double the number he had hoped to recruit.
Britain had on Tuesday issued a call for 250,000 volunteers to sign up to help the NHS and vulnerable people hit by the coronavirus crisis.
Writing on Twitter, Hancock called the news “fantastic”.
07:25 GMT – Tokyo reports more than 40 new cases
The Japanese capital of Tokyo reported more than 40 new cases of coronavirus infections for the second day running, Jiji News reported.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike held an emergency news conference to warn of the risk of an explosive rise in infections, asking residents to avoid non-essential outings until April 12.
The city has become the centre of Japan’s coronavirus epidemic, with more than 250 cases.
07:15 GMT – Kashmir registers its first COVID-19 death
A 65-year-old man, who had a recent travel history outside the region, became the first COVID-19 fatality in Indian-administered Kashmir, sparking fear and causing a stricter lockdown.
Rohit Kansal, spokesman for the region’s government, said the “first death due to coronavirus is a 65-year-old man from Srinagar”, he said. The Srinagar man had tested positive two days ago.
Kansal said four of his contacts have also tested positive for the virus.
07:08 GMT – Russia’s Gazprom says 20 workers in isolation at gas field
Gas giant Gazprom said 20 workers have been quarantined at Bovanenkovo gas field, one of its largest in northern Russia, after contact with a person who has coronavirus.
It said the contact occurred on March 16 and the isolation will last until March 30. Production has not been affected.
06:47 GMT – Iran intercity travel ban begins
An intercity travel ban has begun, an Iranian official said in a televised news conference, amid fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections in the Middle East’s worst-hit country.
“Those who have travelled for the Iranian New Year holidays should immediately return to their cities without making any stop in the cities on their way back home,” said Hossein Zolfaghari, a member of Iran’s national headquarters for fighting the coronavirus.
“The closure of universities and schools as well as suspension of gatherings has been extended,” he said, adding that violators of the measures would face legal consequences.
I’ll be handing over this blog to my colleague Tamila Varshalomidze in Doha shortly.
Here are the main developments this morning:
It was a bit touch and go for a while, but the US Senate has finally passed a $2 trillion relief bill for businesses, workers and healthcare systems affected by the coronavirus. Now it goes back to the House of Representatives.
A number of countries are preparing to impose emergencies (Thailand) or extend them (Spain).
South Korea says it will deny entry to people travelling from overseas who refuse to download an app that tracks their self-isolation, while China says all its new cases continue to be “imported” – most of them Chinese nationals returning home.
05:35 GMT – China shifts narrative on coronavirus outbreak
With China’s own outbreak of coronavirus appearing to have calmed, the country’s state media is devoting considerable space to championing China’s efforts to help Italy, Iran and other countries that are now struggling to control the disease.
Shawn Yuan, who is in China, has been following the shifting narrative.
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) March 26, 2020
05:25 GMT – Russia to suspend all international flights from March 27
The Russian government has ordered the civil aviation authority to suspend all regular and charter flights to and from Russia from March 27, the government said on its website.
Russian airlines will still be allowed to fly to other countries to bring Russian citizens back or if they are authorised by special government decisions.
05:10 GMT – The $2tn US coronavirus stimulus package: Who benefits?
A relief bill worth a little more than $2 trillion finally made its way through the US Senate on Wednesday; it should receive final approval later this week. Here is more detail on its measures:
- $500bn for a Treasury Department lending facility to support US companies, including airlines, with public oversight
- $350bn for small businesses.
- $100bn for hospitals, nurses and doctors to battle the outbreak
- $150bn for state and local governments
- $300bn in direct payments to most Americans of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child within about three weeks.
- $250bn in federal unemployment benefits of $600 per week for individual employees as well as gig workers and independent contractors
You can find out more about what’s at stake in this story from Al Jazeera’s William Roberts.
05:05 GMT – Nigerian army preparing for strict lockdown, forced transfers of sick
The Nigerian army is preparing to forcibly transfer the sick to hospital and enforce strict controls on movement to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Africa’s most populous country, according to Reuters news agency.
A memo from army headquarters seen by the news agency outlines measures to protect government food storage from looters and says the military is also leasing equipment for “possible mass burial”.
04:25 GMT – Thailand announces 111 new confirmed cases
Thailand has announced 111 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, after declaring a state of emergency to come into effect at midnight (17:00 GMT).
The measures will include the closure of border crossings to everyone except Thai nationals, diplomats and their families, and people with permission to work in Thailand.
The total known cases of the virus now stands at 1,045.
03:30 GMT – US Senate passes $2 trillion coronavirus package
After a series of last-minute hiccups, the US Senate has finally passed a $2 trillion package to support the health system, workers and business hurt by the coronavirus outbreak.
More on that story shortly.
03:30 GMT – Spanish Parliament votes to extend state of emergency until April 11
Spain’s parliament has voted in favour of the government’s request to extend the state of emergency – and a nationwide lockdown – by two weeks.
The emergency was first declared on March 14 and includes strict stay-at-home rules.
More people have died in Spain from COVID-19 than any other country except for Italy.
02:50 GMT – Cases in US near 70,000, with more than 1,000 dead
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US is nearing 70,000, with more than 1,000 people now reported to have died from COVID-19, according to AFP news agency.
More on how each state is handling the outbreak here.
02:45 GMT – Japan to set up coronavirus HQ, possible emergency declaration
Japan’s government is preparing to set up a special headquarters on coronavirus as early as Thursday afternoon, in a move that could set the stage for declaring a state of emergency over the outbreak, the Kyodo news agency reported.
The prime minister can declare a state of emergency if the disease is seen as posing a “grave danger” to lives and if its spread threatens the economy.
02:30 GMT – Overseas arrivals to South Korea to be refused entry without app
Yonhap news agency is reporting that South Korea will deny entry to people arriving in the country from overseas if they refuse to install an app to monitor them while they are in self-isolation.
South Korea has been tightening restrictions on people who arrive in the country from overseas [Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]
02:25 GMT – Border closures, flight suspensions leave people stranded
Countries around the world have advised their citizens overseas to return home as quickly as they can as lockdowns accelerate, borders are sealed off, and even transit travel is banned.
But that is easier said than done.
Al Jazeera’s Ian Neubauer spoke to people stuck in limbo at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport.
01:50 GMT – Mexico to suspend all non-essential activity from Thursday
Mexico’s Deputy Health Minister Dr Hugo Lopez-Gatell says all non-essential activities in the country will be suspended from Thursday.
Mexico has reported 475 confirmed cases of coronavirus and six deaths.
01:20 GMT – South Korea cases rise by 104, five more deaths
South Korea’s just given its latest update, confirming 104 new cases, bringing the total to 9,241, with five more deaths.
Some 414 people were discharged from hospital after making a full recovery. In all, 4,144 people in South Korea have been cured of the virus.
00:10 GMT – China cases climb again; all from overseas
Mainland China has reported a further increase in coronavirus cases – all of them in people returning to the country from overseas.
The National Health Commission reported 67 new cases as of the end of Wednesday, compared with 47 a day earlier.
The number of deaths rose by six to 3,287.
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) March 26, 2020
00:00 GMT – Trump administration cut CDC China staff
Reuters news agency is reporting that the administration of US President Donald Trump cut the staff of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) working in China by two-thirds in the two years before the coronavirus emerged.
Most of the reductions were at the Beijing office. The CDC’s headcount in China had dropped from about 47 when Trump took office in January 2017 to about 14 now, Reuters said.
21:59 GMT (Wednesday) – $2 trillion virus rescue bill hits delay in Senate
The $2 trillion economic rescue package to provide aid to American businesses, workers and healthcare systems strained by the coronavirus outbreak has run into last-minute delays in the Senate.
The measure is the largest economic relief bill in US history. More on that story here.
I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic/
Read all the updates from yesterday (March 24) here.