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Saturday, March 21, 2020, 20:14
Iran toll passes 1,500 as S'pore, Israel, UAE see 1st fatalities
By Agencies
Saturday, March 21, 2020, 20:14 By Agencies

In this March 16, 2020, photo, a sign about social distancing is placed on a table at the National Library in Singapore. (EE MING TOH / AP)

MELBOURNE / JERUSALEM /  SEOUL / KUALA KUMPUR - Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose on Saturday by more than 100 to 1,556, and the total number of people infected now exceeds 20,000, a health ministry official said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that social distancing measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak in the country, including travel restrictions, will apply for only two to three weeks as he expects the crisis to ease by then.

Iran “has to do everything necessary to return economic production to normal,” he said in comments broadcast on state TV. He also accused “counter-revolutionaries” of plotting to shut down economic production.

READ MORE: NZ, Australia, Philippines deny entry to all foreigners


Singapore reported its first two CIVID-19 deaths on Saturday, which involve one Singaporean and one Indonesian who are both senior people, according to the country's Ministry of Health (MOH).

MOH said in a press release that two patients have passed away from complications due to COVID-19 infection on Saturday morning.

Separately, the country launched a contact-tracing smartphone app to allow authorities to identify those who have been exposed to people infected with coronavirus as part of efforts to curb the spread of the disease.

Singapore reported Friday a total of 385 COVID-19 cases, 131 of which have been discharged.

People sunbathe on Bondi Beach ahead of its closure in Sydney on March 21, 2020. Authorities temporarily closed Bondi Beach on March 21, after huge crowds flocked to the iconic surfing spot despite government orders not to congregate due to the coronavirus pandemic. (PETER PARKS / AFP)


Australian officials closed Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach on Saturday after thousands of people flocked there in recent days, defying social distancing orders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, amid an unusually warm autumn spell.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the crowds on the country’s most famous strip of sand were “unacceptable” as he reported the number of infections across Australia had risen to 874. The death toll was seven, unchanged from a day earlier.

New South Wales state police minister David Elliott announced Bondi’s closure, warning “this is going to become the new norm” if people did not comply with regulations that prohibit more than 500 people gathering at a non-essential event.


Bangladesh banned the arrival of all flights from midnight except from Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Thailand, a senior civil aviation official said.

At Dhaka airport, authorities started marking the hands of passengers who had been instructed to home quarantine.

The country has reported 24 infections and two deaths as of Saturday. 


Brunei reported another five new cases of COVID-19 on Friday following preliminary tests, bringing the country's total to 78 cases.

According to Ministry of Health, cases 74, 75, 76 and 77 are close contacts of case 69, a local man who returned from a family holiday in Malaysia on March 11. Case 78 is a 54-year old British national working in Brunei who arrived on March 16.


Cambodia's Ministry of Health announced in a press statement late on Friday that four more people were tested positive for COVID-19, raising the total number of the confirmed cases in the country to 51.

The new patients included two Cambodian men who had returned from a mass Islamic religious ceremony in Malaysia, a local man who had close contact with a COVID-19-infected friend, and a Malaysian missionary who came to teach Islam to villagers in Kampong Cham province.


Indians in urban centers were scrambling to buy essential commodities, ahead of a self-imposed day-long curfew on Sunday promoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to practice social isolation.

India, the world’s second most populous country, also plans to halt all incoming international flights to help stem the number of cases, which passed 271 on Saturday.

Four deaths were reported. 


Indonesia likely faces a large surge in coronavirus cases after a slow government response masked the scale of the epidemic in the world’s fourth most populous country, health experts say, as the capital, Jakarta, declared a state of emergency on Friday.

The COVID-19 outbreak has claimed 38 lives in Indonesia, and 81 new cases were confirmed on Saturday, bringing the total to 450 in the country. 

ALSO READ: S'pore suspends large events, Jakarta declares emergency

An employee of the Greater Amman Municipality sanitizes vehicles at one of their stations, amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, in Amman, Jordan, March 19, 2020. (RAAD ADAYLEH / AP)


Iraqi Health Ministry on Friday confirmed three more deaths from COVID-19 and 15 new cases, bringing the total number of the infected to 208.

Of the 208 confirmed cases, 17 have died and 49 others have recovered, according to the ministry.


Israel reported its first fatality from the coronavirus on Friday, an 88-year-old man who suffered from previous illnesses.

The Health Ministry said in a statement he had been brought to Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem about a week ago in serious condition.

Meanwhile, Israel Prison Service announced Friday that the country has decided to release 500 prisoners as part of measures against the spread of COVID-19. 

The purpose of the decision, taken by Israel's Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan, is to reduce overcrowding and prevent gatherings, thereby stopping the spread of the virus in prisons.

The government has moved to an emergency mode that will provide essential services, such as food, medicine and financial services as only 30 percent of workers will be allowed to enter workplaces in both business and public sectors. 

Israel has so far reported 705 cases of coronavirus, the large majority with mild symptoms. About 10 patients are in serious condition and 15 have recovered completely.


The number of COVID-19 infections in Japan had risen to 1,016 cases as of 9:00 pm Friday with the death toll stands at 43. 


Jordan blew sirens at the start of a nationwide curfew on Saturday, limiting the mobility of its 10 million citizens indefinitely to combat the spread of coronavirus, witnesses and officials said.

Anyone violating the curfew, which severely restricts movement beyond emergencies and essential services, can be jailed up to a year, the army said.

The curfew, in which thousands of soldiers have been deployed inside cities and on main highways across the country, is in place until further notice.

Health Minister Saad Jaber said Jordan had 85 confirmed cases of coronavirus, after 15 new cases were identified.

Jordan has closed land and sea border crossings with Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Israel, and suspended all incoming and outgoing flights since Tuesday.


In Kazakhstan, where 52 cases have been confirmed, authorities said on Saturday they were closing all parks in Almaty, the country’s biggest city, which was this week was put on lockdown along with capital city Nur-Sultan.

Over the last two days, police and National Guard servicemen have also locked down several residential buildings in Almaty where infected people lived.


Kuwait reported 17 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 176, Kuwaiti Health Ministry announced on Saturday.


The government of Kyrgyzstan, where the number of coronavirus cases doubled overnight to 12, said on Saturday it was locking down the provincial districts where the infection had been diagnosed.

A surf school proprietor lays out wetsuits on a wall at Sumner Beach to dry them in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 19, 2020. (MARK BAKER / AP)


Malaysians with long-term entry passes to another country will be allowed to travel out for work, but only be able to return home after the end of an ongoing restriction of movement order, the government said on Friday.

This will allow Malaysians working in Singapore to cross the Causeway to go to work.


Two patients who tested positive for COVID-19 in Maldives have made a full recovery, local media reported Saturday.

Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen said that the two COVID-19 patients have made a full recovery, reducing the number of active cases in the country from 13 to 11.


Mongolia's National Center for Communicable Disease (NCCD) confirmed Saturday that four more Mongolian citizens have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of the confirmed cases in the country to 10.

Meanwhile, 193 people who returned from overseas have been kept in isolation. 

New Zealand

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged people on Saturday to cut non-essential internal travel and asked older residents to stay at home to help combat the spread of the coronavirus, which has now infected more than 50 people in the island nation.

The 39-year-old leader said in a televised address that she will keep schools open for now, in a similar policy employed in neighboring Australia.

“Schools will be closed if there is a case that affects a school, as we have been doing to date,” Ardern said.

Currently, New Zealand is at Alert Level 2 of its alert system, where the disease is contained but the risks are growing as the country has seen more cases.

Earlier in the day, New Zealand reported 14 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases of the disease to 53.


The blockaded Gaza Strip ruled by the Islamic Hamas movement, has replaced mosque preachers with doctors to present the weekly Friday sermon.

The specialized doctors warned the prayers of the COVID-19 outbreak, which is spreading in the world, calling on them to abide by the precautionary measures released by the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

So far, the Gaza Strip with a population of over 2 million people is free of the coronavirus, according to Gaza Health Ministry.

Saturday saw four new COVID-19 cases were recorded, taking the tally in Palestine to 52. 


The Pakistani government urged people to adopt social distancing and requested for at least another 45 days of self-quarantine as the country reported its third coronavirus death and the total number of confirmed cases rose to 481.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said that experiences of various countries, especially China, will be utilized to fight against the threat of coronavirus pandemic.

This March 19, 2020 photo shows a free gym at Tel Aviv's beachfront wrapped in tape to prevent public access. (ODED BALILTY / AP)


The Department of Health of the Philippines reported on Saturday 77 more positive cases for COVID-19, the biggest single-day jump in the number of the coronavirus cases in the country.   

That brings the total number of the confirmed cases in the country to 307.   

The government urged people to stay at home to slow down the spread of COVID-19.   

South Korea

South Korea on Saturday advised its public to close facilities and forgo socializing for 15 days, keeping to its policy of voluntary social distancing but warning of consequences if the rules are not followed to slow the coronavirus outbreak.

The country reported 147 new coronavirus infections earlier in the day, bringing the country’s total to 8,799.

The newly reported cases rose back up to above 100, from the 87 recorded on Friday, although South Korea has been experiencing a downward trend. 

Sri Lanka

Police arrested 30 people from various parts of the country for violating curfew, a police spokesman said, adding the curfew has been imposed till Monday morning.

The number of infected COVID-19 patients has risen to 72 after 13 new patients were detected.

Those detected cases include a medical doctor while over 2,000 people were under quarantine set up across the country. Over 200 people remain in hospitals under observation for the virus.


Thailand announced it will close malls in the capital Bangkok as the country reported its largest daily increase in coronavirus infections on Saturday.

Malls, except for supermarkets, will be closed for 22 days beginning March 22 to April 12 in a bid to curb the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said all 51 temporary border passes were closed, and that only one permanent border pass remained open in each border province, except Chiang Rai that bordered two countries, Laos and Myanmar. 

The country reported 89 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, bringing its tally to 411, with the majority of cases in Bangkok.


Turkey reported 311 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, registering the country's biggest single-day rise so far and taking the national tally to 670.  

Turkey confirmed nine deaths from the COVID-19. 


In Turkmenistan, which has so far reported no coronavirus cases, locals traveling to and from the capital, Ashgabat, said that officials at checkpoints installed around the city informed them that non-essential travel was banned.

The Turkmen government, which earlier suspended all international flights, has made no official announcements on the scope and duration of the new restrictions.


The United Arab Emirates (UAE)'s Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) announced on Saturday the first two deaths caused by COVID-19 in the country.

In a statement, MoHAP noted that one of the death cases was a 78-year-old Arab national who had arrived in the country from Europe and the other was a 58-year-old Asian national who lived in the UAE.


In Uzbekistan, with 33 confirmed cases, the government said late on Friday it was shutting down all entertainment venues and tea houses and banning large-scale wedding parties and other family ceremonies.


Vietnam will quarantine all international arrivals at concentrated quarantine facilities from Saturday to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, Vietnam News Agency cited the Ministry of Transport as reporting Friday.

The country has temporarily suspended visa issuance for all foreign nationals for 30 days starting from Wednesday.

Vietnam has confirmed 91 COVID-19 cases so far, among whom 17 have been discharged from hospital after recovery.  


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