Italy reports 475 new coronavirus deaths in a day

Hard-hit Italy reported an additional 475 deaths from the virus on Wednesday, and France imposed a draconian lockdown unseen during peacetime. In the United States, the virus has now spread to all 50 states.

The coronavirus has now infected more than 200,000 people and killed more than 8,000 globally, with over 83,000 people having recovered from the infection, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for more “aggressive” action to curb coronavirus in Southeast Asia after the European Union, now at the epicentre of the pandemic, moved to seal off its borders.

Here are all the latest updates:

Wednesday, March 18
20:58 GMT – Second coronavirus death in Turkey confirmed
Turkey on Wednesday confirmed its second death from coronavirus.

“We have lost a 61-year-old male patient. I wish Allah’s mercy upon him,” said the country’s Health Minister Dr Fahrettin Koca in a tweet.

Meanwhile, 93 new cases were confirmed, raising the tally to 191 in the country, Koca said.

The confirmation of the second death comes after Koca said on Tuesday that an 89-year-old man had died – the first fatality from the virus in Turkey.

20:50 GMT – Trump invokes act to marshal private sector against virus
Managing dual health and economic crises, President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he would invoke a federal provision that allows the United States government to marshal the private sector in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump, appearing in the White House briefing room for the third day in a row, said he would sign the Defense Production Act “in case we need it” as the government bolsters resources for an expected surge in cases of the virus.

20:40 GMT – Iran’s supreme leader to pardon 10,000 prisoners, political ones too
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will pardon 10,000 prisoners including political ones in honour of the Iranian new year on Friday, state TV reported.

“Those who will be pardoned will not return to jail … almost half of those security-related prisoners will be pardoned as well,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told state TV.

THE BOTTOM LINE I School in the time of coronavirus (24:30)
20:27 GMT – Oil prices plummet 24 percent on recession fears
Oil prices had another jaw-dropping skid Wednesday, sending the price of US crude oil below $21 a barrel for the first time since 2002.

Benchmark US oil lost $6.58, or 24.4 percent, to settle at $20.37 a barrel. Brent, the international standard, dropped $2.85, or 13.4 percent, to close at $24.88.

Investors are betting that demand for oil will be down sharply as factories close and as people have put off holidays and business trips in order to stay home and minimise the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

20:18 GMT – Rising number of medical staff infected with coronavirus in Italy
As coronavirus cases jump and deaths surge in Italy, new figures show an “enormous” level of contagion among the country’s medical personnel.

At least 2,629 health workers have been infected by coronavirus since the onset of the outbreak in February, representing more than 8 percent of total cases, according to a report published on Wednesday by Gruppo Italiano per la Medicina Basata sulle Evidenze or GIMBE – Italy’s Group for Evidence-based Medicine.

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