Children play soccer in the afternoon light in Bangkok, Thailand, March 25, 2020. Thailand's government announced a state of emergency to start on Thursday, March 26, 2020, to allow measures that might be needed to control the coronavirus outbreak that has infected hundreds of people in the Southeast Asian country. (PHOTO / AP)
WELLINGTON / AMMAN / SEOUL / TOKYO / SYDNEY / MANILA / NEW DELHI / TEHRAN / JERUSALEM / RAMALLAH / RIYADH / BEIRUT/ BAGHDAD / NUR-SULTAN / PHNOM PENH / HANOI / BANGKOK / KABUL — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a state of national emergency in the entire Philippines as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country jumped to 636, according to a new law released on Wednesday.
The law, which Duterte signed on Tuesday night, empowers the president to tap all available state resources to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press conference that 84 new cases have been tallied as of 4:00 pm local time on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 636.
The Thai government banned entry for all non-resident foreigners on Wednesday but held off on restricting people’s movement inside the country as the government prepared to roll out emergency measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Thailand's Ministry of Public Health on Wednesday said in a press conference that it has instructed health officials in all provinces across Thailand to find and reach out to people suspected to have contracted COVID-19.
A state of emergency will take effect from midnight of Wednesday until April 30, giving Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha sweeping powers to combat the surge of coronavirus infection.
All commuters using all rail systems, including the sky train and underground trains, are required to wear masks. It also said that face masks will be available for sale at entrances to train stations for those who need them.
Thailand's employees are legally entitled to a minimum of 75 percent of their current pay after their employers have temporarily closed business in the face of the COVID-19 spread, said a senior government official.
Thailand has recorded 107 new coronavirus cases, bringing total to 934. The fatalities stands at four.
Separately, a 14-storey dormitory at a Bangkok university campus on Wednesday opened as Thailand's first field hospital for non-critical COVID-19 patients.
A policeman wearing facemasks stands guard at a road checkpoint in Srinagar on March 25, 2020. (TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP)
Some doctors combating India’s coronavirus outbreak have been evicted from their homes by force, a medical association said on Wednesday, due to fears that they may be infected and spread the disease to neighbors.
The country went into a 21-day lockdown on Wednesday, and experts have said it faces a tidal wave of infections if rigorous steps are not taken to keep the virus in check.
Some doctors in temporary residences had been forcefully evicted by their landlords over infection fears, the Resident Doctor’s Association of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi said.
A home ministry spokeswoman said the Delhi state administration had issued orders saying penal action would be taken against those evicting doctors. She did not comment on the situation in other states.
Meanwhile, India is likely to agree an economic stimulus package of more than 1.5 trillion rupees (US$19.6 billion) to fight a downturn in the country that is currently locked down to stem the spread of coronavirus, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Separately, the country has brought back 277 of its citizens from Iran, one of the worst hit countries by the coronavirus.
India, a country of 1.3 billion, has recorded 562 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths.
Singapore reported 73 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, the city-state’s biggest daily jump, taking its tally to a total of 631 infections.
The health ministry said around that half of the new infections were imported, with the other half local cases.
Singapore, which has been battling the respiratory pandemic for over two months, has seen a spike in mainly imported cases in recent days.
The Southeast Asian nation has closed its borders and taken more stringent social distancing measures such as shutting bars to try and stem the spread of the virus.
Laos has detected a third confirmed COVID-19 case, the Lao official said at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon in capital Vientiane.
The patient is a 26-year-old businessman in Vientiane, and a friend of a previous confirmed case, the official said.
Israelis hoping for a stroll or jog were instructed on Wednesday to stay within 100 meters of their homes for a week under tightened restrictions to curb the coronavirus.
Israel has confirmed more than 2,000 cases and five fatalities so far.
The new restrictions further reduced public transport, required employers to check workers for fever and set sanctions for people who defy rules as an artificial intelligence (AI) cyber-security defense system had been converted to predict coronavirus outbreak locations.
Israelis have been instructed to stay home where possible, schools have been shut and many businesses have closed, prompting more than 500,000 layoffs so far.
The specter of people, out for fresh air, jogging and congregating on city streets has alarmed health authorities. The new 100 meter limit is meant to end such activity.
The coronavirus crisis comes as Israel is grappling with political deadlock after three inconclusive elections in less than a year.
Malaysia’s prime minister on Wednesday extended a two-week virtual lockdown to April 14 as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the country, which has the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia.
Muhyiddin Yassin said the country had 172 new coronavirus cases as of Wednesday noon, taking the total to 1796, with 17 deaths. The original restrictions were until March 31.
He also said that he will announce a comprehensive people-oriented economic stimulus package on Friday.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday declared a state of national emergency as the country prepared to go into a complete lockdown at midnight to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
New Zealand’s cases of the coronavirus surged to 205 cases as the government imposed self-isolation for everyone, with all non-essential services, schools and offices to be shut for a month from 1100 GMT.
“From midnight tonight, we bunker down for four weeks to try and stop the virus in its tracks, to break the chain,” Ardern told parliament.
From midnight tonight, we bunker down for four weeks to try and stop the virus in its tracks, to break the chain
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister, New Zealand
“Make no mistake this will get worse before it gets better. We will have a lag and cases will increase for the next week or so. Then we’ll begin to know how successful we have been.”
Ardern told parliament the lockdown was triggered by early evidence of community transmission of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. A record 50 new cases were confirmed on Wednesday.
All non-essential services, bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries, playgrounds and any other place where the public congregate will be closed.
Ardern warned the restrictions will be strictly enforced.
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to the media during a press conference one day before the country goes on lockdown to stop any progress of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Wellington on March 24, 2020. (MARTY MELVILLE / AFP)
Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said on Tuesday the government would allow people to go on foot to buy groceries in neighbourhood shops to ease daily life for the nearly 10 million inhabitants under a tight curfew to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The curfew was imposed on Saturday after King Abdullah enacted an emergency decree giving the government sweeping powers to enforce an army-imposed curfew and other measures that restrict civil and political liberties. The government justified the severe restrictions by saying that many people had flouted calls to stay at home, risking the fast spread of the virus.
Shops, bakeries and even pharmacies have since closed in a complete lockdown of businesses and commercial activity, and the army, which was deployed on streets across the country, warned that anyone leaving their homes would face up to a year in jail.
Razzaz said that as of Wednesday people would be allowed to leave their homes from 10 am to 18:00 pm to walk to corner shops, groceries, bakeries and pharmacies.
Health Minister Saad Jaber said on Tuesday that confirmed cases of the virus jumped to 153, with 26 new cases in the biggest daily rise since numbers began to steadily grow last week. There have been no deaths.
South Korea reported 100 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing its total infections to 9,137, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
South Korea said it would tighten border checks for travellers from the United States by Friday as concerns rise over imported coronavirus cases despite a decline in domestically transmitted infections.
Seoul has imposed strict border checks on visitors from Europe, China, Italy and Iran, requiring them to sign up to a smartphone application to track whether they have any symptoms such as fever. A two-week mandatory quarantine for all long-term arrivals from Europe took effect last Thursday.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said similar measures should be implemented for entries from the United States no later than Friday.
“We don’t have much time given the situation where our citizens living in North America including students who are anxious about a rise in confirmed patients there and expected to return home,” Chung told a meeting.
Turkey’s death toll from the coronavirus increased by seven to 44 on Tuesday as the number of confirmed cases rose by 343 to 1,872, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.
He said on Twitter that 3,952 tests had been conducted in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of tests carried out in Turkey to around 28,000.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Wednesday warned of an “overshoot” of coronavirus infections at the weekend and urged residents to stay indoors as much as possible.
Koike made the statements at a news conference where she warned of a “severe” situation after more than 40 new infections were announced in the capital.
Meanwhile, Japan's education ministry on Tuesday unveiled guidelines for schools reopening in April to reduce the risk of coronavirus infections.
"The situation has not improved. We want schools to prepare for reopening without lowering their guard," Japanese Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda told a news conference on the matter.
The new guidelines came as Japan's health ministry and local governments said Tuesday the total number of people infected with the COVID-19 virus in Japan stood at 1,214.
The death toll in Japan from the pneumonia-causing virus currently stands at a total of 52 people, according to the health ministry, with the figure including those from the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama, close to Tokyo.
A senior official from Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Wednesday called for the government to compile a record economic package in response to the impact of the coronavirus.
Its is desirable to have a package worth more than the previous record of 56.8 trillion yen (US$510 billion) in total spending at the time of the “Lehman shock,” said LDP lawmaker Hiroshi Moriyama.
Australia will expand coronavirus testing, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday, as Canberra struggles to contain an outbreak that it said has killed nine people in the country.
Australian officials warned that an accelerating number of coronavirus infections could start overwhelming the country’s intensive care units, as stricter social distancing measures came into force on Wednesday.
As Australian case numbers surged past 2,500, Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews said if the same long queues appearing outside offices of the main welfare agency, Centrelink, started occurring at hospitals, there would be fatal consequences.
Queensland state said on Wednesday a 68-year-old man had become Australia’s youngest person to die from coronavirus.
The number of COVID-19 infections in Lebanon increased on Wednesday by 29 cases to 333, the National News Agency reported.
Security forces have increasingly adopted tough measures by controlling the movement of people in a bid to restrict the spread of the virus.
Iran plans to ban Iranian New Year travel and traditional gatherings in parks, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, as the coronavirus toll rose to 2,077 in the worst-hit country in the Middle East.
Rouhani said Iranians will be stopped from leaving cities on New Year trips and gatherings will be restricted during Sizdah Bedrail, a nature festival which is part of the festivities during which people traditionally hold picnics outdoors.
Rouhani said that Iran has intensified global campaign for the removal of US sanctions during its combat against the novel coronavirus, state TV reported.
Meanwhile, The ground force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) on Wednesday kicked off a "biological defense" exercise and disinfection operations across the country.
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei warned that Iran may face a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday.
As of Wednesday, a total of 27,017 people infected with the virus, of whom 2,077 have died.
Indonesia has confirmed 105 new coronavirus cases, bringing the Southeast Asian country’s total to 790, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto said on Wednesday.
Three more people had died, taking the total number of deaths to 58, he said, adding 31 people had recovered from the virus.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtaye on Tuesday urged all Palestinian workers in Israel to return to their homes in the West Bank amid the hike in COVID-19 cases in Israel.
"In light of the dangerous and ongoing development in Israel, and the expected curfew, we ask all workers to return to their homes, for their protection and safety," Ishtaye said in a statement.
All workers should get home quarantine for 14 days after return, while those who show any symptoms of the infection with the novel coronavirus need to contact the nearest medical facility, and follow the measures ordered by the Palestinian government, he added.
Palestine on Wednesday declared that two new cases of COVID-19 tested positive, bringing the total number of the infected in its territories to 62.
Shoppers buy fresh produce at a market on the third day of a partial lockdown in Malaysia amid fears over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Penang on March 20, 2020. (GOH CHAI HIN / AFP)
Saudi Arabia is tightening a partial curfew imposed nationwide to contain the spread of the coronavirus, barring entry or exit from Riyadh, Mecca and Medina as well as movement between all provinces starting on Wednesday, state news agency SPA reported.
The orders, approved by King Salman, also added four hours in the three cities to the 21-day curfew that began on Monday, so that it will start at 3pm instead of 7pm as of Thursday, SPA said.
Saudi Arabia instituted the curfew on Monday after registering a jump of almost a quarter in infections. It reported its first death on Wednesday, in Medina, and 205 new cases taking its total to 767.
Iraqi Health Ministry on Tuesday confirmed four more deaths from COVID-19 and up to 50 new cases, bringing the total number of the infected to 316.
So far, a total of 316 cases have been confirmed in the country, 27 of whom have died and 75 others have recovered, according to the statement.
The Iraqi authorities took several measures to contain the outbreak of COVID-19, including imposing a nationwide curfew until March 28.
To help Iraq cope with the spread of COVID-19, a Chinese team of seven experts arrived in Baghdad on March 7.
They are working with their Iraqi counterparts in the fight against the viral respiratory disease, which has largely been under control in China through a nationwide campaign since late January.
Kazakhstan has suspended exports of socially significant food products since March 22 to guarantee the domestic supply, Kazakh Minister of Trade and Integration Bakhyt Sultanov announced on Tuesday.
The banned products include buckwheat, wheat and rye flour, sugar, potatoes, carrots, turnips, beets, onions, cabbages, sunflower seeds and oil.
According to the Agriculture Ministry, the ban is valid at least until April 15, 2020.
Along with the export ban, Kazakhstan also reduces the value-added tax on agricultural products and imposes zero duty on imports of critical food products.
Kazakhstan has reported 72 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday and shut down two largest cities.
Cambodia's Ministry of Health (MoH) announced in a press statement late on Tuesday that four more persons were tested positive for COVID-19, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the kingdom to 91.
The new patients included an American couple and two British nationals, who were aboard cruise boat Viking Cruise Journey that docked along the Mekong River in Kampong Cham City in southeast Cambodia's Kampong Cham province on March 9, the statement said.
They are among 61 passengers and crew, who have been under quarantine at a hotel in Kampong Cham City since March 10 after three British passengers were tested positive for the virus upon the boat's arrival, it added.
It added that 53 out of 57 passengers and crew on Tuesday were allowed to leave the hotel where they had been quarantined for 14 days after testing negative for the virus.
Brunei reported five new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the country's total number to 109.
According to Brunei's Ministry of Health, one patient is still in critical condition, requiring ventilator support, while three patients are under intensive care. The rest are in good shape.
Vietnam’s health ministry reported an additional seven coronavirus cases on Wednesday, taking the Southeast Asian country’s tally to 141, though it reported no deaths.
Vietnam had said in mid-February that all its then-16 confirmed coronavirus cases had recovered, but it has since been battling an influx of imported cases from overseas citizens and Vietnamese citizens escaping outbreaks elsewhere.
There are 1,596 suspected cases in the country, it said, and 24,311 tests have been carried out in Vietnam.
Myanmar reported its first confirmed cases of coronavirus in two men who had recently traveled to the United States and the United Kingdom.
The Southeast Asian nation had been the most populous country in the world to say it had no cases.
The news of the confirmed cases sparked panic buying in the commercial capital of Yangon, with shoppers packing major supermarkets.
Myanmar last week closed land borders and banned mass gatherings, including for the upcoming Buddhist New Year. Cinemas have been closed, though bars and restaurants remain open.
A woman affected by the COVID-19 was killed in Afghanistan's western Herat province, bringing the number of death from the disease to two, the country's Public Health Ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said Wednesday.
Afghanistan reported 32 more confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 74 in the country.
The official noted that precise epidemic prevention and control measures have been implemented across the country.
In addition, four service members of the NATO-led Resolute Support coalition were infected by the infectious disease, the coalition forces confirmed earlier on Tuesday.
Bangladesh on Wednesday reported the country's fifth death related to COVID-19.
Professor Meerjady Sabrina Flora, head of the country's Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) under the Health Ministry, said at an online press briefing that the 65-year-old man was hospitalized prior to his death on Wednesday morning and had "diabetes and hypertension."
Meanwhile, the IEDCR chief said no new COVID-19 cases were reported in Bangladesh in the last 24 hours.
Of the total 39 cases in the country so far, seven patients have recovered.
A survey in Maldives has shown that local guesthouses which have been closed as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 could lose nearly US$30 million in revenue, local media reported Wednesday.
A survey conducted by the Guest House Association of Maldives (GAM) found that it could take up to six months for local guesthouses to be operational again, during which time they would lose US$28.9 million in revenue.
A total of 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 has been reported in Maldives, all of whom are foreign citizens. Five patients have recovered, bringing the total number of active cases down to eight.
Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has urged for all political parties in the country to unite to assist the government in its efforts to combat the COVID-19 virus, local media reported Wednesday.
Quoting a statement from the Prime Minister's office, media reports said that Prime Minister Rajapaksa held an All Party Political Leader's Conference at his official residence in capital Colombo on Tuesday evening in which he urged party leaders to make their recommendations.
He said the government wanted to obtain the assistance of all politicians as the number of COVID-19 patients rose to 101 since the first local patient was detected in the second week of March.
Sri Lanka has to date detected 101 COVID-19 infected patients while over 200 are under observation.
Over 11,000 are under quarantine in their homes and at the quarantine centers.
Pakistan’s tally of cases rose to 1,000, with seven deaths, its health ministry said.
Authorities have shut down Sindh province, home to its largest city of Karachi, even though Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was opposed to a full lockdown because the poor would suffer the most.
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