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Coronavirus: Latest updates from across the world

The latest news on the spread of Covid-19 from Europe and beyond.

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Police officers prevent a woman from entering Germany at the border with France (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

Police officers prevent a woman from entering Germany at the border with France (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

Police officers prevent a woman from entering Germany at the border with France (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

Countries across the world are taking measures to halt the spread of coronavirus. It has infected more than 169,000 people across the globe and thousands with the virus have died.

Here are the latest updates:

– GREECE

Greece is imposing a compulsory 14-day quarantine on anyone entering the country and extending shop closures to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

So far, all restaurants, bars and cafes have already shut down, except for deliveries and takeaways. Deputy government spokeswoman Aristotelia Peloni said the expanded closures, as of Wednesday, would not affect supermarkets, pharmacies, banks or petrol stations.

He also said people were required to maintain a two-metre distance from each other in supermarket queues and to avoid cash payments by using credit or debit cards,

Greece has 331 infected and four deaths.

Gerard Butler was a torchbearer for the Olympic flame
Gerard Butler was a torchbearer for the Olympic flame (AP)

Meanwhile, Greece’s Olympic committee said the handover ceremony for the Olympic flame for the Tokyo Games scheduled for Thursday will take place behind closed doors.

Last week, the Hellenic Olympic Committee cancelled the remainder of the Olympic torch relay after crowds gathered in Sparta in southern Greece to watch part of the torch relay. The torch was carried by actor Gerard Butler.

– GERMANY

Germany has partially closed its borders with five neighbours, leading to queues at some crossings.

German police launched new controls at the usually check-free borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark on Monday. Police turned back some pedestrians at Kehl, across the Rhine river from the French city of Strasbourg.

People who commute across the border to work are still allowed to cross, as can trucks carrying goods, and Germans are being allowed back in. But interior minister Horst Seehofer said that people “without a valid reason to travel” would not be allowed across.

That, for example, ends trips to shops across the border for now.

Global cases of coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

Denmark shut its own border over the weekend – as did two eastern neighbours of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Germany has confirmed more than 4,800 infections with the new coronavirus, including 12 deaths.

– ITALY

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced that it is suspending production across most of its European plants through to March 27.

The Italian-American carmaker is closing six plants in Italy that make cars under the Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Maserati nameplates as well as a plant in Serbia that makes the Fiat 500L and in Poland that makes the Fiat 500.

– SOUTH KOREA

South Korea’s central bank has executed an emergency rate cut of 0.5 percentage points to help ease the economic fallout from the coronavirus, which has left more than 8,200 people sick in the country.

The Bank of Korea’s move brought its policy rate to an all-time low of 0.75% amid concerns that the global spread of Covid-19 will rattle South Korea’s trade-dependent economy.

A man wearing a face mask passes a bank’s currency advertisement board in Seoul
A man wearing a face mask passes a bank’s currency advertisement board in Seoul, South Korea (Lee Jin-man/AP)

The bank said the rate cut will help ease volatility in financial markets and help pump money into the economy by lowering borrowing costs for companies.

But some experts say it is unclear whether lower interest rates will meaningfully boost economic activity that is largely suppressed by preventive measures against the virus, which has influenced many to stay at home.

– BANGLADESH

Bangladesh’s government has shut down all educational institutions and private tutorial centres across the country until March 31.

Education minister Dipu Moni said at a news conference in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, that the measures were taken as a precautionary step against the coronavirus.

Bangladesh confirmed three more cases of infection on Monday, taking the total to eight. The new infections include two children under 10 years old, according to the country’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research.

– CZECH REPUBLIC

Czech authorities are ordering a lockdown of 21 towns and villages in an area some 150 miles east of the capital to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

The health authority in the nearby city of Olomouc barred residents from leaving those places and no one without residency can travel there.

The extraordinary measure, initially for two weeks, includes confining people to their homes except to shop for food and medicine and go to and from work.

The Czech Republic has 298 cases of infection with the virus that causes Covid-19.

The measure comes just hours after the government banned travelling across the country, with the same exceptions.

– IRAN

Tehran reported another 129 fatalities on Monday, the largest one-day rise since it began battling the Middle East’s worst outbreak, which has claimed more than 850 lives and infected a number of senior officials in the country.

Businesses in the capital remained open even as other countries in the region moved towards full lockdowns.

News agencies said a 78-year-old member of the Iranian clerical body that chooses the country’s supreme leader has died from Covid-19.

He was the latest of several senior Iranian officials to have been infected in the worsening outbreak.

The semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported that Ayatollah Hashem Bathaei, a low-profile, moderate member of the Assembly of Experts, died after contracting Covid-19.

– TURKEY

Turkey is closing bars and nightclubs to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, meanwhile, reported on his Twitter account that 12 more coronavirus cases, including seven people who had returned from European countries and three from the United States. The update raised Turkey’s confirmed cases to 18.

Bars and nightclubs will be temporarily closed as of Monday, the Interior Ministry said.

Turkey has stepped up measures to contain the spread of the virus, including suspending flights to several countries and closing schools and universities.

On Sunday, Turkey set up quarantine locations for more than 10,300 people returning from pilgrimages to Islam’s holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

-JAPAN

The Bank of Japan (BOJ) joined other major central banks in expanding its already unprecedented levels of monetary support for financial markets and companies battered by the coronavirus outbreak.

The BOJ announced after an emergency policy meeting that it would expand its purchases of stocks, bonds and other assets and provide zero interest, one-year loans to companies running short of cash to help the economy weather the impact of the outbreak.

The Bank of Japan's governor
Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda speaks during a news conference in Tokyo (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

The co-ordinated moves by the US Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and BOJ were followed by rate cuts in South Korea and in Hong Kong, where the currency is pegged to the US dollar.

They failed to impress financial markets, which resumed their declines as Wall Street futures traded 5% lower.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index slipped 2.5%, closing at 17,002.04. Other markets saw much bigger losses, with Australia’s benchmark plunging 9.7%.

– LIBERIA

Liberia has announced its first Covid-19 case. The executive director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Nathaniel Blama, is among the first officials on the continent to contract the virus.

Mr Blama came to Liberia from Switzerland on Friday. Information minister Eugene Nagbe said that “there is no cause for panic” given measures put in place by the government to contact, trace, test and control any emergence of the virus.

Liberia, along with its neighbours Sierra Leone and Guinea, were devastated by Ebola outbreaks from 2014 to 2016 that killed more than 11,300 people, including 4,000 in Liberia alone.

– BELGIUM

Belgium’s political parties have agreed to temporarily put their differences aside to fight the coronavirus outbreak more efficiently. After months of failed negotiations, opposition parties agreed to grant Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes’ caretaker government special powers for up to six months.

Coronavirus cases in Europe graphic
(PA Graphics)

Ms Wilmes said on Twitter that her team will be “driven by a sense of duty. This great union is up to the challenges of the moment”.

Belgium has been in a political impasse for months after last May’s general election exposed deep linguistic and regional divisions in the country. Belgium’s first female prime minister, Ms Wilmes, was appointed in October to succeed liberal leader Charles Michel, who became president of the European Council.

In an attempt to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus, Ms Wilmes’ government has closed schools, bars and restaurants and suspended all sports and cultural events. Belgium has 1,085 confirmed cases and four deaths.

– HUNGARY

Hungary’s prime minister said the country is closing its borders to foreigners and only citizens will be allowed in. Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that international co-ordination about the border closures is under way.

Mr Orban also said all bars, restaurants and shops will have to close daily at 3pm, with only food stores and pharmacies allowed to stay open longer.

Cinemas, cultural institutions and nightclubs will also be closed, while sporting events can still be held if organisers assume responsibility, but only without spectators.

Schools were closed to students on Monday, with distance learning programmes starting to be implemented.

So far, 30 people in Hungary have been infected with one virus-related death.

– SPAIN

Spain has become the fourth most virus-infected country in the world, surpassing South Korea, following a sharp rise in cases.

A shopping trolley in the middle of an empty car park on the outskirts of Madrid
A shopping trolley in the middle of an empty car park on the outskirts of Madrid (Bernat Armangue/AP)

Coronavirus cases in Spain rose by roughly 1,000 in 24 hours to 8,744 on Monday, and the number of fatalities reached 297.

Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska said a total lockdown could be the next step, after deploying the army to the streets and to clean train stations, ordering 46 million to stay at home and taking over control of private hospitals.

Portugal and Spain have already agreed to halt tourism across their shared border. Goods and workers will still be allowed in and out. About half of the deaths have been in the capital, Madrid.

– SERBIA

Serbia said troops are being deployed to the country’s borders and the streets of the capital, Belgrade, to reinforce a nationwide state of emergency that has been introduced in an effort to try to stop the coronavirus outbreak.

Serbia’s Defence Ministry said the soldiers will guard hospitals treating Covid-19 infected patients, border checkpoints, airports and train stations where bigger crowds are expected.

Serbia has closed its borders to foreigners and demanded self-isolation for returning Serbian citizens for up to 28 days, depending which country they visited. The measures also include voluntary isolation for all citizens except for visits to the shops and pharmacies and walking pets. People older than 70 were told not to leave their homes until further notice.

Serbia’s Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic, said that if people continue to ignore the self-isolation orders, as they appeared to be doing in Belgrade on Monday, the government will introduce a police-enforced curfew. Serbia has 55 infected patients.

– GREENLAND

The government in Greenland has reported the first confirmed coronavirus case on the world’s largest island.

The government said that the infected individual was in isolation at home in Nuuk, Greenland’s capital.

Prime Minister Kim Kielsen said: “Now, we need to assess how to react.”

He urged residents of the Arctic island to limit their travel.

Mr Kielsen said there are no immediate plans to shut down schools. Greenland is an autonomous territory of the Danish realm with a population of 56,000.

– MALAYSIA

Malaysia’s leader has announced a drastic two-week lockdown in the country to slow the spread of coronavirus following a sharp spike in the number of cases.

All religious institutions, schools, businesses and government offices will be shut from Wednesday until March 31. All mass gatherings will be banned and only essential services including supermarkets, banks, petrol stations and pharmacies will be allowed to stay open.

Malaysians will not be allowed to travel overseas, and all foreign visitors will be banned. All Malaysians returning from overseas will have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Malaysia has been hit by coronavirus
People wearing face masks walk in front of a shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Vincent Thian/AP)

The country has recorded 315 new cases of the virus in the past two days, causing its total to surge to 553, the highest number in south-east Asia.

– SWITZERLAND

Switzerland’s government has declared a state of emergency, ordering shops, restaurants, bars and other facilities to be shut down.

The measures exclude healthcare operations and supermarkets but include entertainment and leisure facilities, which will be closed until April 19.

“We need to do everything possible to slow the advance of the coronavirus,” said Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga, urging people to follow government guidelines.

The nation, which had already implemented border controls on people coming from risk areas, extended them to include checks on the borders with Germany, Austria and France.

The government approved the use of up to 8,000 members of the military to help in hospitals, as well as where needed with logistics and security.

– CANADA

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he will close the country’s border to anyone not a citizen or a permanent resident, but Americans will be exempted.

Mr Trudeau announced the move outside his residence, where he is self-isolating after his wife tested positive for the virus.

Mr Trudeau also said he will restrict flights to Canada to airports in four major cities.

– RUSSIA

The government said it is to bar entry to all foreigners, from Wednesday until May 1.

The decision will not apply to diplomats, foreigners permanently staying in Russia, plane and ship crews and truck drivers.

PA