A quarter of the world’s population is now living under some form of lock-down, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues its march across the globe.

At present, global cases of the virus exceed 400,000, with deaths approaching 20,000 persons. More than 100,000 people reportedly have recovered from COVID-19.

Spain overtakes China in Covid-19 deaths, rising to second worldwide

From Ingrid Formanek and Al Goodman in Spain
(Source: CNN)

Deceased victims of the virus are transported to the Palacio de Hielo ice rink in Madrid on Tuesday, which has been converted into a morgue.
Deceased victims of the virus are transported to the Palacio de Hielo ice rink in Madrid on Tuesday, which has been converted into a morgue. Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

Spain has recorded 3,434 deaths from coronavirus, the health ministry announced Wednesday – making it the country with the second highest death toll in the world.

That’s an increase of over 27% on Tuesday’s figures. The country now has 47,610 cases in total. 

In China, where the outbreak began, 3,281 people have died, according to its National Health Commission.

Italy has the highest death toll in the world at 6,820, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

A top Spanish health official, Fernando Simon, said Wednesday that he expects the number of Covid-19 cases to continue increasing in the coming days, despite having said earlier this week that he expected infections to peak soon.

Trump and Senate agree $2tn deal to boost US economy

(Source: BBC)

US President Donald Trump (Image copyright GETTY IMAGES)

US President Donald Trump and the Senate have agreed a massive economic relief package worth more than $1.8 trillion (£1.5tn).

The package includes money to bail out industries that have been affected by the coronavirus crisis.

The relief package is expected to contain measures to help people pay bills if they are laid off because of the virus, expand unemployment assistance by $250bn and get $350bn in emergency loans to small firms.

Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell described it as a “wartime level of investment” in the economy.

He said it would also “stabilise” key industrial sectors and give money to hospitals and other healthcare providers which were having difficulty getting equipment.

US stocks surged in anticipation of the massive economic stimulus deaL. (Copyright: GETTY IMAGES)

Markets surged in the US on Tuesday in anticipation of a deal, and shares rose in Europe and Asia on Wednesday.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones jumped by 11.4% on Tuesday – its biggest one-day gain since the Great Depression.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed 8% higher on Wednesday following news of the relief deal.

Markets in Europe were also trading higher, with London’s FTSE 100 index up 3.5%.

The latest swing in share prices continues a period of unprecedented volatility as markets react wildly to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

This month alone has seen the Dow having the five biggest daily gains and five biggest falls of its 135-year history.

World’s largest lockdown – the latest in Asia

(Source: BBC)

India is ill-prepared to deal with a huge outbreak of infections

India is on day one of its lockdown, which prompted panic-buying.

The health ministry says India has 519 Covid-19 cases and nine deaths. Why so low in a country of 1.3bn? Very low testing rates could be to blame, making it a possible pandemic hotspot.

In other developments:

  • China’s Hubei province is lifting all travel restrictions today – a significant milestone for 60 million people locked down since January. Wuhan – where the global outbreak began – will ease restrictions on 8 April.
  • South Korea said all arrivals from the US would need to self-isolate for two weeks, from Friday. South Korea’s imported cases jumped by 34 to 101 on Tuesday, its biggest single-day rise as it battles a second wave of infections. European arrivals already face a two-week quarantine and virus tests.
  • Malaysia is extending its two-week lockdown. With just under 1,800 confirmed cases, the country is the worst-hit in south east Asia, recording 17 virus deaths.
  • Pakistan, which has 991 confirmed cases and seven deaths, said it had recorded its first coronavirus death due to local transmission. The Lahore resident had no travel history.
  • In Central Asia, people in Uzbekistan face fines for not wearing masks in public and Kazakhstan’s main cities are under quarantine. Meanwhile, Turkmenistan says it has yet to record a single case – perhaps not surprising for one of the most secretive states in the world.

China to resume domestic flights to and from Wuhan

From Steven Jiang in Beijing and Eric Cheung in Hong Kong
(Source: CNN)

The Wuhan Tianhe airport in Wuhan has been closed to passenger flights since the city was locked down on January 23 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
The Wuhan Tianhe airport in Wuhan has been closed to passenger flights since the city was locked down on January 23 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

China will resume domestic passenger flights to and from Wuhan starting April 8, when travel restrictions placed on the original epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak are to be lifted, according to the Hubei provincial transportation authority.

Speaking on Wednesday, the authority’s deputy head Wang Benju said that while most domestic flights will resume, all flights from Wuhan to Beijing and international destinations will remain suspended.

On Tuesday, the Hubei provincial government announced that travel restrictions on Wuhan will be lifted on April 8, and residents that have been issued green health QR codes will be able to leave the city and move about.

Jordan eases curfew – the latest in the Middle East

(Source: BBC)

The Jordanian authorities used buses to distribute bread to people on Tuesday

In Jordan, where 153 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported, the government has eased an indefinite curfew.

Ministers announced on Monday that people would not be permitted to leave their homes and that municipalities would deliver essential goods like bread and water.

But on Tuesday, Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said people would now be allowed to leave the homes on foot during the day to go to local grocery shops, bakeries and pharmacies.

In other developments:

  • Iran: President Hassan Rouhani has warned that his government is set to impose tough new measures against the coronavirus. He said they would include restrictions on movement and were likely to be “difficult” for the public. Despite being by far the hardest-hit country in the region, Iran has so far resisted lockdowns. It has reported 2,077 deaths linked to Covid-19 and 27,017 cases, although the actual figures are thought to be far higher.
  • Israel: The government has approved new restrictions that will take effect at 17:00 (15:00 GMT). Israeli media reported that people were likely to be required to stay within 100m (330ft) of their homes. Five people have died In israel and another 2,030 have been infected.
  • United Arab Emirates: Dubai-based airline Emirates has become the largest international carrier to completely ground its fleet in response to the pandemic. It came after the authorities in the UAE, which has reported 248 confirmed cases and two deaths, closed all its airports.

Prince Charles, 71-year-old heir to throne, tests positive for virus; Queen ‘in good health’

From CNN’s Max Foster in London

Prince Charles, pictured on March 12 in London.
Prince Charles, pictured on March 12 in London. Eamonn M. McCormack/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prince Charles, the Queen’s son and the first in line to the British throne, has tested positive for coronavirus and is now self-isolating in Scotland.

Here’s the statement from Clarence House:

“The Prince of Wales has tested positive for coronavirus. He has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual. 

“The Duchess of Cornwall has also been tested but does not have the virus. In accordance with government and medical advice, the Prince and the Duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland. The tests were carried out by the NHS in Aberdeenshire where they met the criteria required for testing.

“It is not possible to ascertain from whom the Prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks.”

The palace added the Queen “remains in good health.”

This post has been updated.

Brazil’s president criticises coronavirus ‘hysteria’

(Source: BBC)

Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro. (Copyright: Getty Images)

As Brazil’s largest city – São Paulo – goes into lockdown, President Jair Bolsonaro has continued to downplay the threat of coronavirus.

In a televised speech last night, he criticised the media for “fear-mongering” and called on the country’s mayor and governors to roll back restrictions they have introduced to curb the spread.

Mr Bolsonaro added that people aged over 60 were at risk, but most people – including himself – had nothing to fear.

“With my history as an athlete, if I were infected with the virus, I would have no reason to worry, I would feel nothing, or it would be at most just a little flu,” he said.

Critics of Mr Bolsonaro have accused him of a cavalier attitude to coronavirus.

Concerns have also been raised about him having possibly contracted the disease. Over the last couple of weeks, 22 officials who joined him on a trip to the US have tested positive. Mr Bolsonaro has twice said that his test came back negative, but he has refused to release the results.

Over 2,200 infections have been reported in Brazil, along with 46 deaths related to coronavirus.Article share tools

Pakistan prime minister under increased pressure to impose lockdown

From CNN’s Sophia Saifi in Islamabad

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in Islamabad, Pakistan, on March 16.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in Islamabad, Pakistan, on March 16. B.K. Bangash/AP

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has been consistently rejecting calls for a nationwide lockdown claiming that an all-out closure of businesses would affect the “25% of the population that lives below the poverty line,” the country’s daily wage earners who Khan said would lose their incomes in a heartbeat. 

But for all intents and purposes, a lockdown is what seems to be in place in Pakistan:

  • All international and domestic flights have been suspended
  • Trains are not running
  • Highway journeys between provinces are banned

While Khan’s government deals with growing criticism for not shutting down the country soon enough, the hugely popular military has been lauded for stepping in and announcing measures further closing down the country.

This included the suspension of public transport, timed closure of gas stations and military troops deployed in all major cities to enforce these measures. 

Pakistan Army troops patrol in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on Tuesday.
Pakistan Army troops patrol in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on Tuesday. Anjum Naveed/AP

According to figures released by Pakistan’s Ministry of Health the number of patients diagnosed with coronavirus in Pakistan crossed 1,000 today. Ten days ago that number was at 53. At least seven people are also confirmed dead. 

All major phone networks have changed their call tunes to messages asking people to wash their hands and the state TV has messages in regional languages explaining the importance of social distancing.

Mosques however have not been closed down and one of the largest clusters of the virus sprung up in the outskirts of the capital where a large congregation of preachers met, disregarding the government’s requests for three or more people not to gather in a public space. 

Daily wage workers, unemployed due to the coronavirus outbreak, jostle for free food supplies being distributed in Quetta, Pakistan, on Tuesday.
Daily wage workers, unemployed due to the coronavirus outbreak, jostle for free food supplies being distributed in Quetta, Pakistan, on Tuesday. Arshad Butt/AP

Dr. Arshad Altaf, a public health specialist told CNN that there are roughly less than 3000 ventilators available in the entire country and while China has provided aid worth $4 million to Pakistan, alongside medical face masks and ventilators, this is still not enough to deal with the exponential growth of the virus.

Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority which is connected to the military has taken over the reins in dealing with the crisis and Altaf welcomed the move, “there has to be a multi-pronged effort, the govt cannot deal with this alone” 9 min ago

Thailand announces state of emergency starting tomorrow until April 30

From CNN’s Kocha Olarn in Bangkok and Eric Cheung in Hong Kong.

Medical staff prepare to test people for coronavirus at a drive-through testing center in Bangkok on March 25.
Medical staff prepare to test people for coronavirus at a drive-through testing center in Bangkok on March 25. Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images

A state of emergency for Thailand will come into effect starting tomorrow, as the country combats the novel coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced on Wednesday.

The state of emergency will be in place until April 30.

Prayut said supplies of food and other necessities will be “adequately available,” and urged citizens to comply with the order to prevent the virus from spreading in the community.

However, he did not specify what new measures will be implemented.

“Some may feel they lose their rights and freedom, but this is for protecting you, your family’s lives, and that of every Thais,” he said.

“If everyone understands, follows strictly and seriously, soon I am confident we will pass through this crisis together.”16 min ago

Vladimir Putin cancels flight, will address Russia on Covid-19 shortly

From CNN’s Darya Tarasova and Nathan Hodge in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in Sevastopol, Crimea, on March 18.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in Sevastopol, Crimea, on March 18. Alexander Nemenov/Pool/AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin will address the nation shortly on the pandemic and measures to contain the coronavirus, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday.

Peskov told reporters in a conference call that Putin had canceled a flight to St. Petersburg to work on the text of the speech and would address citizens in the coming hours. 

The announcement followed a visit by Putin on Tuesday to a hospital for coronavirus patients in Moscow and a meeting with his top economic and political advisers.  

Russian state television said Putin’s remarks would be broadcast at approximately 3:00 p.m. Moscow time on Wednesday (right about now).

Putin has previously insisted his country managed to stop the mass spread of coronavirus– and that the situation was “under control,” thanks to early and aggressive measures to keep more people from getting the disease.