Coronavirus live updates: Italy overtakes China’s death toll

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy rose in the last 24 hours by 427 to 3,405, overtaking the total number of deaths so far registered in China, officials said on Thursday.

Thursday’s figure represented a slight improvement on the day before, when Italy recorded 475 deaths from COVID-19, while the world has stepped up efforts against the coronavirus pandemic by closing schools, shutting down cities and imposing strict border controls.

Nearly 220,000 people have now been confirmed with the coronavirus globally, of which at least 84,000 have recovered from COVID-19, while more than 8,800 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University in the US.

Thursday 19 March
20:00 GMT – Potential coronavirus treatment touted by Trump already in shortage -pharmacists
Supply of a malaria treatment that has been tried with some success against the new coronavirus is in short supply as demand surges amid the fast-spreading outbreak, according to independent pharmacies and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

The ASHP, which maintains a list of drugs in shortage independent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s list, plans to add the generic malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to its list of shortages later on Thursday, according to Erin Fox, senior director of drug information at University of Utah Health, who maintains the shortages list for the ASHP.

The FDA could not be immediately reached for comment, but hydroxychloroquine is not currently on its list of drugs in shortage.

President Donald Trump on Thursday called on US health regulators to expedite potential therapies aimed at treating COVID-19 for which there is no approved treatments or vaccines.

19:55 GMT – US sick leave aid leaves millions of workers in the cold
It’s usually standing room only at O’Duffy’s Pub on St Patrick’s Day, as patrons clad in green pack into the bar to share a drink or two and plenty of food. But this year, owner Jamie Kavanaugh and one of his bartenders sat alone on the holiday that commemorates Ireland’s patron saint. Like restaurants across the country, Kavanaugh’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, bar is now only allowed to serve takeout food as part of social distancing ordinances meant to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

“People are usually celebrating, smiling, toasting one another, sharing hugs and smiles. Instead, the pub is empty,” Kavanaugh told Al Jazeera. “People that came in for takeout didn’t even want to come in the door, and they’re afraid to use the pen to sign.”

Read more here.

19:50 GMT – Amazon shutters NYC warehouse after worker catches coronavirus
Amazon said it was closing a small New York City warehouse temporarily after one of its associates tested positive for the coronavirus, a move that highlights the operational risk it faces as the disease spreads.

The company said it has sent associates home from the delivery station with full pay as it sanitises the facility, its first in the United States known to have a case of the virus.

Read more here.

19:48 GMT – Israelis ordered to stay at home to halt coronavirus spread
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tightened a national stay-at home policy, announcing guidelines aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus would now be enforced by police under emergency orders.

“Under these orders, you, Israel’s citizens, are required to stay at home. It is no longer a request, it is not a recommendation, it is an obligatory directive that will be enforced by enforcement authorities,” Netanyahu said in a televised address.

The measures stopped short of a total national lockdown: Netanyahu said Israelis would still be allowed to shop for food and medicine, and some workers would be exempted from the restrictions.

Israel’s Health Ministry has reported 573 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection. 47 cases have been reported among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

19:40 GMT – US slaps sanctions on UAE-based firms over Iran oil purchases
The United States on Thursday slapped sanctions on five United Arab Emirates-based companies, accusing them of having collectively purchased hundreds of thousands of metric tons of petroleum products from Iran last year.

The move was the latest sign that Washington is showing no signs of backing away from squeezing Iran’s economy, even as the Islamic Republic struggles to battle the coronavirus outbreak.

Read more here.

19:18 GMT – Eight new coronavirus cases reported in Qatar, 10 recoveries
Qatar has announced eight new cases of COVID-19, and the recovery of 10, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 460, the ministry of health said.

The ministry also approved home quarantine as a second option for families arriving from abroad after passing mandatory medical examination.

Until now 9,460 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Qatar.

19:05 GMT – France reports huge spike in coronavirus deaths, raising total to 237

French health authorities reported 108 new deaths from coronavirus, taking the total to 372 or an increase of almost 41 percent, the toll rising sharply yet again as the country was in its third day of a lockdown aimed at containing the outbreak.

During a press conference, health agency director Jerome Salomon added the number of cases had risen to 10,995, up from 9,134 on Tuesday, which is a rise of 20 percent in 24 hours.

Salomon said 1,122 people were in a serious condition, needing life support, up 20.5 percent compared to Wednesday.

It is estimated France has around 5,000 beds equipped with the necessary gear but these are unevenly spread around the country.

19:00 GMT – Coronavirus cases in Ireland rises to 557 from 366
The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ireland rose to 557 on Thursday from 366 a day earlier, the highest daily increase so far, the health department said.

“In broad terms, the total number of cases is not out of line with what we have predicted for the course of the week,” Ireland’s chief medical officer, Tony Holohan, told a news conference.

18:48 GMT – Number of coronavirus deaths in UK rises to 144
The number of people in the United Kingdom who have died after contracting the coronavirus rose to 144, up 40 percent in a day, the health ministry said.

The number of positive cases increased by 643, or 25 percent, to 3,269.

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