Coronavirus: Pandemic gathers pace worldwide

Infections and deaths decline in Italy but steady day-to-day increase continues in Spain

Cuban doctors at the field hospital in Crema during the Coronavirus emergency lockdown in Italy. Photograph: EPA

Cuban doctors at the field hospital in Crema during the Coronavirus emergency lockdown in Italy. Photograph: EPA


The pandemic of disease caused by the coronavirus is accelerating, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday, with more than 300,000 cases now recorded and infections reported from nearly every country worldwide.

While it took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases of Covid-19, it took only 11 days for the second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases, said WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“But we are not prisoners to statistics. We’re not helpless bystanders. We can change the trajectory of this pandemic,” said Mr Tedros.

He called for global political commitment to change the trajectory of the pandemic, urging countries to take both defensive and attacking measures.

“Asking people to stay at home and other social distancing measures are an important way of slowing down the spread of the virus and buying time, but they are defensive measures,” he said.

“To win we need to attack the virus with aggressive and targeted tactics – testing every suspect case, isolating and caring for every confirmed cases and tracing and quarantining every close contact.”


Covid-19 has infected hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.

Here are the latest updates:

Officials said Italy has recorded a smaller day-to-day increase in coronavirus cases for the second straight day.

Data released by the civil protection agency showed 4,789 new cases from a day earlier, nearly 700 fewer than the day-to-day increase reported on Sunday.

The number of deaths also did not rise by as much. There were just over 600 registered on Monday compared to 651 on Sunday.

Italy has been anxious to see the day-to-day figures for new cases and deaths go down as its health system struggles under the weight of the largest Covid-19 outbreak outside of China.

As of Monday, Italy had a total of 59,138 virus cases compared to China’s 81,496.

Health authorities have said it will be a few more days before they will know if Italy is at the beginning of a positive trend.

The number of new coronavirus infections in Spain has risen for the second day in a row.

The 4,517 new cases brought the overall number since the beginning of the outbreak to 33,089. The day-to-day increase of about 15 per cent is similar to the one seen the day before.

The exponential growth of infection was lower than in previous days, but the number of deaths jumped by 462. Spain now has 2,182 fatalities.

The Spanish government said deputy prime minister Carmen Calvo has been taken to hospital with a respiratory infection and doctors are testing her for coronavirus.

Spaniards are beginning their second week of confinement as worry spreads for the collapse of the country’s healthcare system amid an influx of Covid-19 patients requiring assisted respiration.

The Spanish government is seeking parliament’s approval to extend the state emergency for two more weeks until April 11th, but harsher measures such as halting overall industrial production have been ruled out.

No incoming travellers from outside Europe’s Schengen border area are allowed into the country starting from Monday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has tested negative for the virus.

The German leader’s spokesman told news agency dpa “the result of today’s test is negative” but that “further tests will be conducted in the coming days”.

Ms Merkel went into quarantine at home on Sunday evening after being informed that a doctor who had administered a vaccination to her had tested positive for coronavirus.

She received the precautionary vaccination against pneumococcal infection on Friday.

The 65-year-old, who has led Germany since 2005, was told about the doctor’s test shortly after holding a news conference announcing new measures to curb the spread of the virus.

United States
The US Secret Service said an employee has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The agency said in a statement that it will continue to monitor the employee’s condition. The employee is in quarantine.

The agency said it determined after an assessment that the employee has had no contact with other employees or anyone the agency is responsible for protecting for nearly three weeks.

The Secret Service provides security protection for US president Donald Trump and his family, among other high-ranking US officials.

Meanwhile, Harvey Weinstein has tested positive for coronavirus at a state prison in New York while serving a 23-year sentence for rape and sexual assault.

The 68-year-old former film producer, who was taken to hospital with heart problems in recent weeks, was diagnosed and quarantined just days after being transferred to the state’s maximum security Wende Correctional Facility near Buffalo.

Weinstein was previously held at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex, which has had a spate of coronavirus cases.

The state prison system confirmed that two inmates at Wende have tested positive for Covid-19, but did not identify them.

Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, said Weinstein was one of the prisoners with the virus. Five officers and two supervisors at Wende were also placed in isolation because of possible exposure to the disease, he said.

Weinstein was sent to Wende last Wednesday, the day before the state prison system stopped accepting inmates from local jails in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Two former passengers on a cruise ship have died, becoming the ninth and 10th fatalities from the Diamond Princess, Japan’s health ministry said.

The two men had tested positive for the virus while aboard and were treated at hospital. The ministry did not disclose the direct cause of their deaths.

Japan now has 1,801 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 712 from the ship. The death toll now stands at 51, including 10 from the ship.

Canada’s most populous province said it is ordering the closure of all non-essential businesses.

Ontario premier Doug Ford said the order will be effective at 11.59pm on Tuesday and will be in place for at least 14 days.

He said he will release a list of businesses that will be allowed to stay open, but food will remain on the shelves and people will have access to medication.

Prime minister Justin Trudeau earlier said: “Enough is enough. Go home and stay home.”

Mr Trudeau said staying at home is a duty and the government will enforce it if necessary. He said those who are not doing their part are putting at risk everyone else, including the eventual recovery of the economy and the wellbeing of millions of Canadians.

Iran has reported another 127 coronavirus-related deaths, bringing its toll to 1,812 amid 23,049 confirmed cases.

Iran is battling the worst outbreak in the Middle East, and has faced widespread criticism for not imposing stricter quarantine measures early on.

It is also suffering under severe American sanctions imposed after President Trump withdrew from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The WHO said criminals are increasingly posing as officials of the health organisation in an effort to swipe information or money from people during the crisis.

Spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said that they are using “multiple impersonation approaches” such as fraudulent phone calls and phishing on email and through social media.

The UN health agency said it is working to confirm and debunk such attempts and alert local authorities. It has set up a website to help people prevent fraud during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Always take time to think about a request for your personal information, and whether the request is appropriate,” said the WHO.

China’s foreign ministry said the US is “wasting the precious time” Beijing had won in attacking the global coronavirus outbreak that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the US has attempted to “discredit others and look for a scapegoat to shift its responsibilities”.

He added that the US should “stop politicising the epidemic, stop stigmatising and defaming China and other countries”.

China’s health ministry said Wuhan has now gone five consecutive days without a new infection, showing the effectiveness of draconian travel restrictions that are slowly being relaxed countrywide.

At the same time, China is stepping up measures to prevent the virus from being brought back from overseas, requiring international flights into Beijing to first stop at airports outside the capital for inspection.

Albania has reported three more deaths related to the coronavirus. The country did not report a single case until two weeks ago, and had said that it expected a surge in cases this week.

Albania is in a lockdown, with all borders closed, and schools, cafes, restaurants, gyms, and public and private transport shut. All shops except for groceries and pharmacies are also closed.

Polish police said they have carried out inspections of nearly 80,000 people subjected to forced quarantine because of the coronavirus pandemic and found 318 cases of people violating the quarantine.

The Polish government has enacted increasingly firm measures in order to slow the spread of Covid-19. Last week the government increased penalties for quarantine non-compliance. The authorities also extended an initial two-week closure of all schools in the country for an additional two weeks, lasting through Easter.

Additionally, they introduced a phone app to track those in home quarantine.

So far, Poland, with a population of 38 million people, has 649 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and seven deaths.

Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s government has banned non-essential travel across the Indian Ocean island nation, in the latest measure to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The government is allowing the transport of rice and other essential items.

Also, a statement from the president’s office said the government has banned the transporting of tourists. Tourism is a major income source for the country.

New Zealand
Office workers have been hauling computers and plants to their cars and shoppers are stripping shelves of coffee, flour and toilet paper before New Zealand starts a four-week lockdown.

“I know it will feel daunting,” said prime minister Jacinda Ardern, but added that the move is meant to save lives.

People must stay home and all non-essential businesses and activities cease when the lockdown begins on Wednesday night.

The decision came as health officials announced another 36 confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the total to 102. Most were tied to travel overseas, but crucially, two of the cases could not be traced and officials believe they are evidence of a local outbreak.

New Zealand, which has a population of five million, already has closed its borders to all but citizens and residents.

New Zealand also considers itself a gateway to South Pacific island nations that would be devastated if the virus took hold there, given their isolation and poor health systems. Only a handful of virus cases have been identified so far in the South Pacific, including two in Fiji and one in Papua New Guinea.

Authorities in southern Pakistan have begun a two-week complete lockdown, as the number of positive coronavirus tests jumped to 799 across the country.

Murad Ali Shah, chief minister in the southern Sindh province, has imposed a ban on the movement of people, saying the measure was aimed at saving lives.

However, prime minister Imran Khan has avoided a nationwide lockdown, instead urging people to stay at home voluntarily.

South Africa
The number of coronavirus cases in South Africa jumped to 402 on Monday, up 128 from the day before, continuing the worrying exponential growth and making it the country with the most cases in Africa.

More than half of South Africa’s total cases are in Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, the country’s largest city with 5.7 million people, and the capital, Pretoria, with 2.4 million, according to the figures released by the government health ministry.

South Africa has overtaken Egypt to be become the African country with the highest number of cases. South Africa has not registered a death from the disease. The majority of cases are from travellers from Europe and other countries, but the number of cases that are locally transmitted is rising.

Hundreds of migrants from Central Asia are stuck in Moscow’s airports as countries close borders and airlines cancel flights amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Footage from state TV showed dozens of people lying on the floor at airport terminals, using camping mats to sleep on. Many of them say they have been there for several days.

As of Monday, there were 180 Kyrgyz nationals, 202 Uzbek nationals and more than 250 Tajik nationals waiting for flights to their home countries at three Moscow airports.

Russia has reported 438 coronavirus cases and closed the border for foreigners and restricted air traffic with all countries last week.

Bangladesh has ordered a 10-day general holiday through to April 4th for all government and private organisations to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

It said all government offices not involved in emergency services have been closed. The announcement came after health authorities confirmed a third death due to Covid-19.

Officials also confirmed another six new cases of the virus, including two children under 10 and a doctor and two nurses.

Fourteen police officers in Greece have been placed in precautionary home quarantine after the arrest of a 26-year-old man who claimed he had the coronavirus.

Police said the incident occurred after the Greek man was stopped while smashing mirrors on parked cars. The suspect allegedly spat at officers involved in his apprehension.

It was later discovered that he had violated a quarantine order after travelling recently to Athens from the UK.

Thirteen other arrests were announced on Monday for alleged quarantine violations, an offence that carries a fine of €5,000. Three people have been arrested, including a Greek Orthodox priest, for violating a ban on holding church services for the public.

Two women were arrested for playing tennis on an empty private court on the day that a general circulation ban was imposed nationwide.

Separately, police said they have made 238 arrests since March 12th for violations of business operating restrictions. – Reuters/AP