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Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 23:11
Duterte declares state of calamity, India closes Taj Mahal
By Agencies
Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 23:11 By Agencies

A passenger waits for his flight at Christchurch Airport in New Zealand, March 16, 2020. (MARK BARKER / AP)

WELLINGTON /  SEOUL / JERUSALEM  / CARIO / MANILA - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a state of national calamity for six months amid the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country.

The declaration of a state of calamity will put into effect a price freeze on basic commodities

"I hereby declared a state of calamity throughout the Philippines for a period of six months, unless earlier lifted or extended as circumstances may warrant," said a proclamation signed by Duterte on Monday and released to the media on Tuesday. 

Duterte ordered all law enforcement agencies, with the support from the armed forces to undertake all necessary measures to ensure peace and order in affected areas. 

The declaration will put into effect a price freeze on basic commodities. The Philippines now has 187 COVID-19 cases, including 12 deaths. 

The Philippines on Sunday started implementing a 30-day lockdown in Metro Manila to limit the movement of people in the densely populated region. On Monday night, Duterte expanded the lockdown by placing the entire main Luzon island under "enhanced community quarantine" in a drastic bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease. 

READ MORE: Philippine president Duterte tests negative for COVID-19

The “enhanced quarantine” of the island with a population of at least 57 million people would be implemented until April 12, Duterte said in a televised address. 

The Philippine Stock Exchange suspended trade indefinitely on Tuesday, citing the safety of traders and staff in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Philippines will shut down all airports in the main Luzon Island starting on Friday in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19, the Department of Transportation said on Tuesday.

Outbound passengers are given 72 hours to fly out of Luzon, including Metro Manila.

The Philippines is the first regional nation to take such drastic steps against the virus.

Malaysia bans all outbound trips, foregin arrivals

Malaysia introduced a comprehensive ban Monday on movement and mass assembly throughout the country including religious, sports, social and cultural activities and any place of mass gatherings, except for shops and supermarkets so people may purchase essential goods.

All Malaysians are prohibited from traveling overseas. Those returning when the measures are effective are to undertake health screening and quarantine themselves at home for 14 days. Foreign nationals and tourists are completely barred from entering the country.

Additionally all schools and educational institutions will be closed as well as all non-essential government and private premises except for those considered critical including water, energy, security and banking.

The measures will be effective from March 18 to March 31. 

Singaporeans rushed to stock up on food on Tuesday after Malaysia announced the closure of its border despite Singaporen prime minister reassured on the same day that Malaysia’s leader had promised him that goods and cargo, including food supplies, would continue to flow between the two nations.

Total cases rose 120 to 673. The country also confirmed its first deaths from the coronavirus involving a 60-year-old Malaysian man.

India closes Taj Mahal, Mumbai to keep half its office workers home

India closed the Taj Mahal, its top tourist site, and the financial hub of Mumbai ordered offices providing non-essential services to keep half their staff at home as efforts to control the spread of coronavirus in South Asia ramped up.

The moves, announced late on Monday, come just days after authorities in the city shut down schools, cinemas, malls, gyms and banned mass gatherings.

The number of COVID-19 cases in India on Tuesday rose to 125, India's federal health ministry officials said.

The death toll increased by one to three in total on Tuesday after a fatality reported in Mumbai. 

Pakistan reports first death

Pakistan’s health ministry said on Wednesday that a coronavirus infected person had died.

The death was announced on a web portal the ministry launched on Tuesday to keep a track of the spread of the coronavirus in the South Asian nation.

It said 195 people had tested positive in Pakistan so far.

Indonesia confirms 38 more coronavirus cases, total rises to 172

Indonesia has confirmed 38 new coronavirus cases in the past two days, bringing the total number of infections to 172, with 5 recorded deaths, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said on Tuesday.

Most of the cases were found in Jakarta, but they were also detected in East Java, Central Java and Riau Island provinces, he said.

NZ unveils US$7.3-b package

New Zealand on Tuesday said it would pump NZ$12.1 billion (US$7.31 billion), representing 4% of GDP, to stimulate the economy, amid fears that disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak could trigger a recession.

The package was a larger than that implemented in response to the global financial crisis and bigger than those announced by countries like Australia, Singapore and others, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said in a news conference.

New Zealand has taken two foreign visitors into custody on Tuesday after they failed to comply with a requirement to self-isolate for two weeks to contain the spread of coronavirus.

South Korea reports 84 new coronavirus cases, total at 8,320

South Korea's education ministry said Tuesday that it will delay this year's new school year by two more weeks to April 6 on worry about the COVID-19 outbreak.

South Korea said on Tuesday it plans to tighten border checks for all arrivals from overseas at a time when domestically transmitted infections are subsiding.

South Korea reported 84 new coronavirus cases, bringing the country’s total infections to 8,320, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Arrivals to NZ must self-isolate, Australia steps up lockdown

Malaysian Muslims prays during Friday prayers which was held with shorter sermons to prevent the spread of new coronavirus at the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 13, 2020. (VINCENT THIAN / AP)

Australia mulls 2nd round of stimulus 

The number of COVID-19 cases rose to over 375 in Australia on Tuesday, with further measures introduced to help the nation's battered economy endure ongoing major disruptions.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has confirmed the government is discussing scaling up the nation's response, with a second round of stimulus measures expected, on top of 17.6 billion Australian dollars (US10.7 billion) already promised.

Health Minister Greg Hunt dismissed calls for Australia to declare a lockout.

Several state leaders are pushing for a ban on social gatherings to extend to anything with more than 100 people, an order that would be much tighter than the 500 person maximum announced by the government on Monday.

Australia's national carrier Qantas announced on Tuesday that it will cut international flights by 90 percent and domestic services by 60 percent. 

ALSO READ: Saudis told to stay home as Bahrain reports Gulf's first death

Thailand reports 30 new COVID-19 cases

Thailand’s cabinet on Tuesday approved plans to postpone next month’s Thai New Year holiday and to close schools to limit the spread of the coronavirus, a government spokeswoman said.

Its ministry of public health on Tuesday warned of mass COVID-19 contagion, with 30 new cases as of Tuesday, raising the total cases in the country to 177.

The ministry said 11 of the new confirmed cases were related to a group of boxing fans, who had earlier tested positive for COVID-19 after being at the Lumpini boxing stadium.

Infections in Japan rise to 837

Japan's health ministry said Tuesday the number of COVID-19 infections rose to 837 in Japan as of 6:30 pm local time.

The death toll in Japan from the pneumonia-causing virus currently stands at a total of 36 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.

Vietnam weighs suspending all travel visas

Vietnam’s government is proposing a suspension of visas to travelers from all countries for two weeks due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to a posting on the website of the Hanoi’s People Committee.

Cambodia reports 12 new cases of coronavirus

Cambodia reported 12 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, doubling its tally to 24.

Of the new cases, 11 were people who had traveled to Malaysia for a religious event at a mosque, a statement from the Ministry of Health said.

Mongolia reports three imported coronavirus cases

Mongolia has reported three new coronavirus cases among citizens repatriated by specially chartered planes from South Korea and Germany, the country’s emergency commission said on Tuesday.

The commission said the patient from Germany was in critical condition.

Turkey shuts cafes

Turkey will temporarily close cafes, sports and entertainment venues and is suspending mass prayers in mosques in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus, as the number of confirmed cases rose to 47 with 29 new infections, authorities said on Monday.

All of the 29 new cases are directly or indirectly in contact with the United States, Europe, or other Middle Eastern countries, said the minister, noting that three of them are among the Umrah visitors from Saudi Arabia.

Turkey’s central bank, meanwhile, cut its key interest rate by a full percentage point to single digits and announced a series of measures to boost liquidity amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The benchmark rate was cut to 9.75% from 10.75% at an emergency meeting, the central bank said on Tuesday. The Monetary Policy Committee brought forward its meeting originally scheduled for March 19 to discuss the “potential economic and financial impact” of the coronavirus, the central bank said on its website.

Police officers secure the area as pilgrims arrive from the airport to be quarantined in university dormitories outside Ankara, Turkey, March 15, 2020. (TUMAY BERKIN / AP)

Kazakhstan reports spike in coronavirus cases

Kazakhstan’s healthcare ministry reported 14 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, raising the total count to 27 in the Central Asian nation.

According to minister Yelzhan Birtanov, the 14 new patients were diagnosed in the capital, Nur-Sultan.

Israel to fast-track cyber-monitoring of coronavirus cases

Israel’s government will invoke emergency regulations to speed up the deployment of cyber monitoring in the fight against the new coronavirus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

Further measures announced by Netanyahu on Monday included putting most the country’s public sector workforce on a one-month leave and reducing private sector employees to 30 percent attendance at their workplaces.

A total of 85 people in Israel have been tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 298, the Ministry of Health said.

Armenia declares a state of emergency

Armenia and Russia will restrict the transit of people between the countries for two weeks in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the press office of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Monday.

Armenia on Monday declared a state of emergency until April 14 and postponed a referendum on changes to the Constitutional Court until after the emergency.

Armenia had reported 52 coronavirus cases as of the end of Monday, the highest number among countries in the South Caucasus region.

UAE urges citizens abroad to return home

United Arab Emirates has urged its citizens abroad to return home due to travel difficulties amid the spread of coronavirus and suspensions of flights from some countries, state news agency WAM said on Monday, citing the ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation.

UAE has recorded 98 cases of the virus.

Iraq reports 1 more death from COVID-19, 6 new cases

Iraq's Health Ministry on Monday confirmed one more death from COVID-19 and six new cases, bringing the total number of the infected in the country to 133.

The new cases included three in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, two in Najaf, and one in Diwaniyah, the ministry said in a statement.

Cyprus in self-isolation

Cyprus has isolated itself from the outside world as of 6 pm Monday to stem the spread of the coronavirus, authorities said.

Only Cypriot citizens, EU nationals working in Cyprus, accredited diplomats or people with a special permit from Cypriot authorities will be allowed to fly in until April 30.

A man crosses an empty street shortly past midnight at Quezon city in Manila, Philippines, March 17, 2020 as the government implements an "enhanced community quarantine" that requires millions of people to stay mostly at home in an attempt to contain the new coronavirus. (AARON FAVILIA / AP)

COVID-19 cases jump to 22 in Afghanistan

The number of confirmed cases in Afghanistan has soared to 22 as one new positive case has been confirmed in the western Herat province, Public Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Mayar said Tuesday.

Qatar registers 38 new COVID-19 cases

Qatar on Monday said it registered 38 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of the confirmed cases in the country to 439, the public health ministry said.

The new cases include three Qataris, who have just returned from Britain, Spain and Switzerland respectively, and foreign workers and visitors, read the statement.

Jordan closes restaurants 

Jordan said on Monday that all restaurants will be closed as of Tuesday and it may impose the defense law to give authorities more power to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Jordan started imposing compulsory quarantine on all passengers arriving in the country and that the quarantined people have been put in five- and four-star hotels in Amman and the Dead Sea area.

Iran has temporarily freed 85,000 prisoners

Iran has temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, a spokesman for its judiciary said on Tuesday, in response to the coronavirus epidemic.

“Some 50% of those released are security-related prisoners ... Also in the jails we have taken precautionary measures to confront the outbreak,” said Gholamhossein Esmaili.

The Iranian authorities on Monday closed the doors of Shi'ite shrines in the religious cities of Mashhad, Qom and Shahr-e-Rey.

A total of 16,169 people in Iran have been infected with novel coronavirus, of whom 988 have died, said the Ministry of Health and Medical Education on Tuesday.  

Dhaka shares sink to 6.5-year low

The prime index of Bangladesh's premier bourse fell to its lowest level in 6.5 years on mounting worries over fresh COVID-19 cases in the country.

Bangladesh on Monday confirmed three more new COVID-19 cases, taking the total to eight in the country. 

Kyrgyzstan closes borders

Kyrgyzstan has banned entry to all foreigners to safeguard against a coronavirus, Deputy Prime Minister Altynai Omurbekova said on Tuesday.

Kyrgyzstan has reported no virus cases on its soil.

Positive COVID-19 cases rise to 28 in Sri Lanka

The total number of positive COVID-19 patients in Sri Lanka rose to 28 on Monday after 10 patients were detected including a 13 year old girl, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

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