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Monday, March 23, 2020, 20:40
UN to create global coronavirus fund, Norway says
By Agencies
Monday, March 23, 2020, 20:40 By Agencies

A police officer distributes flyers to inform the public about measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in Lagos, Nigeria, on March 22, 2020. (PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

CARACAS / WASHINGTON / PANAMA CITY / FRANKFURT / ROME / LONDON / PARIS / MADRID / BOGOTA / CAPE TOWN / PORTO / RABAT / OUAGADOUGOU / LONDON / BERLIN / BELGRADE / BANJUl / MOSCOW / WARSAW / OSLO / KINSHASA / LAGOS / MAPUTO / YAOUNDE / BELGRADE- The United Nations will create a fund to prevent the spread of coronavirus and support the treatment of patients worldwide, Norway said on Monday.

The purpose of the fund is to assist developing countries with weak health systems in addressing the crisis as well as to tackle the long-term consequences

The purpose of the fund is to assist developing countries with weak health systems in addressing the crisis as well as to tackle the long-term consequences. The United Nations could make a formal announcement this week, the ministry said.

Norway, which suggested the fund, has not committed how much money it would put into the initiative, similar to a 2014 United Nations Ebola Response Fund.

"We want to make sure that the efforts are as unified as possible and as early as possible so that we can answer up to the demands that countries will have, especially the poorest countries," Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told Reuters.

ALSO READ: Fears grow of spread as Syria confirms first virus case

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called on wealthy countries to not just think about their citizens but help less-prepared nations tackle the crisis.

Women wearing masks walk past a bus in London, March 22, 2020. (KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH / AP)


Britain sent in the army to deliver protective equipment to hospitals on Monday and told people to stay at home and heed warnings over social distancing or the government would bring in more extreme measures to stop the coronavirus spread.

So far, 281 Britons have died from coronavirus and, in the last few days, British authorities have rapidly stepped up action to try to limit the spread of the disease 

With some doctors saying they felt like “cannon fodder”, the government said the military would help ship millions of items of personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks to healthcare workers who have complained of shortages.

So far, 281 Britons have died from coronavirus and, in the last few days, British authorities have rapidly stepped up action to try to limit the spread of the disease and prevent a repeat of the death toll seen in other countries where thousands have died.

However, there have been complaints from frontline medical staff about shortages of kit, saying they did not feel safe at work. In a letter pleading with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to increase PPE supplies, more than 6,000 frontline doctors said they were being asked to put their lives at risk with out-of-date masks, and low stocks of equipment.

READ MORE: UK closes pubs, restaurants, NY shuts non-essential businesses

Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted there had been issues but promised action was being taken. He said the army would drive trucks throughout the day and night to get supplies to medical staff.

“It’s like a war effort, it is a war against this virus and so the army have been incredibly helpful in getting those logistics so we can get the supplies to protect people on the front line,” he told the BBC, saying the health service now had 12,000 ventilators, 7,000 more than at the start of the crisis.

Britain has brought in a series of measures to try to curb the spread of the virus.

On Monday, a much-reduced rail service was introduced and jury trials were suspended, coming days after Johnson advised Britons to work from home if possible and ordered the closure of pubs, gyms and leisure centers.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at a press conference about the coronavirus, in Berlin, March 22, 2020. (MICHAEL KAPPELER / POOL PHOTO VIA AP)


There are signs that the exponential upwards curve in new coronavirus infections in Germany is flattening off for the first time thanks to social distancing measures in force, the head of the country's public health institute said on Monday.

The Chancellor is healthy at this moment. She is simply in home office, as are many other people who have had to place themselves in self-isolation at home 

Olaf Scholz, Germany’s finance minister

He said he was optimistic that measures taken so far in Germany, including school closures, instructions on hand-washing and strict warnings against public gatherings, were already having an effect.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has risen to 22,672 and 86 people have died from the disease, a tally by public health agency Robert Koch Institute (RKI) showed on Monday.

That compares with 18,610 cases and 55 deaths on Sunday, when RKI warned that the actual number was likely higher as not all local health authorities had submitted their figures over the weekend.

German Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Chancellor Angela Merkel, who on Sunday went into quarantine after coming into contact with a coronavirus-infected doctor, was healthy but working from home.

“The Chancellor is healthy at this moment. She is simply in home office, as are many other people who have had to place themselves in self-isolation at home,” Scholz, who is Germany’s finance minister, told a news conference on Monday.

“She is active: we had the cabinet meeting together this morning. Not with video, but of course we all recognise each others’ voices. Otherwise, files are being delivered back and forth and everything is happening as you’d imagine,” he added.

Scholz said he would speak in Merkel’s place in the Bundestag lower house of parliament on Wednesday.


The Democratic Republic of the Congo imposed a two-day lockdown in Haut-Katanga, an area rich in copper and cobalt, after two people tested positive for the coronavirus, the provincial governor said late on Sunday.

Jacques Kyabula Katwe said that the boundaries of the southeastern province, whose capital is the major mining hub of Lubumbashi, would also be closed.


The mayor of Maputo, the capital and largest city of Mozambique, is now in quarantine, together with a delegation that attended an international conference in London on March 10, the municipal council of Maputo announced on Monday.

The move was taken after notification on March 19 from the organizers of the London conference on climate and water that Prince Albert II of Monaco, one of the participants of the summit, tested positive for COVID-19, the Maputo city council said in a statement.

The mayor, Eneas Comiche, and his delegation returned to Maputo on March 13.

On Sunday, Mozambique reported the country's first confirmed case of COVID-19, a male citizen older than 75 who recently visited Britain.


Greece on Monday suspended flights from Britain and Turkey to curb the spread of coronavirus, as a lockdown took effect in the country.

The ban came into effect at 0400 GMT - 6:00 am in Athens - on March 23 and ends at 1300 GMT on April 15. It was a temporary and preemptive measure, according to a ministerial decree, as part of further efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Greece saw its largest single-day jump in confirmed coronavirus cases on Sunday, a rise of 94 infections which brought the total to 624, with fatalities increasing to 15.

The prime minister announced a curfew with few exceptions restricting the movement of people, the latest in a series of measures to fight the viru

Police officers were deployed on the streets of Athens on Monday to enforce the lockdown, which allows people out only with special permits.


Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced on Sunday a series of economic measures to address the financial fallout from the spread of the coronavirus in the country, including prohibiting layoffs while also suspending rent payments and credit payments.

There are 77 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and no deaths to date, according to official statistics. The government has declared a state of alarm, imposing a full month-long quarantine in the country.

US Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, walks to participate in a series of votes related to a bill in response to COVID-19. At the US Capitol in Washington, DC, March 18, 2020. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)


US Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said on Sunday, becoming the first member of the Senate to announce he has COVID-19.

Partisan battles in the US Senate stopped a US$1 trillion-plus coronavirus response bill from advancing on Sunday, but talks continued over Democrats' demands for more funding for medical care and state and local efforts to combat the pandemic.

US Senator Rand Paul is the first member of the Senate to have been infected with COVID-19

The bill is Congress' third effort to blunt the economic toll of a disease that has killed at least 420 people in the United States and sickened more than 33,000, leading governors to order nearly a third of the nation's population to stay at home and putting much business activity on hold.

President Donald Trump has approved California's request for a presidential Major Disaster Declaration to bolster the most populous US state's COVID-19 emergency response efforts, California's governor said on Sunday.

Trump has also activated the National Guard in the three states hardest hit by the outbreak: California, New York and Washington.

New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo said the US state will build four temporary hospitals to address imminent hospital capacity issues.

Trump said the United States will make a decision at the end of a 15-day period on "which way we want to go" to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Trump also said that he would consider an executive order to release “totally nonviolent prisoners” from those facilities.

READ MORE: Prisons in US release inmates to stop spread of coronavirus

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense announced Sunday the death of one of its contractors caused by the coronavirus, the first such fatality related to the US military.

The contractor who worked at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency - headquartered inside the Pentagon - died on Saturday, according to a news release by the Pentagon. 


The Gambia has confirmed its first death related to COVID-19, the country's health minister Amadou Samateh said Sunday.

Speaking on national TV, Samateh said the patient, a 70-year-old Bangladeshi national, tested positive for COVID-19 after he passed away in an ambulance on the way to hospital for treatment on Friday.

It is the first death and the second confirmed case of COVID-19 in the West African country, with the first case being reported on March 17.


Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Monday gave the authorities five days to develop a system to track people who have come into contact with anyone with coronavirus by using mobile phone geolocation data.

Under the new system, people would be sent information if they came into contact with someone who was infected and the same information would be passed on to special regional headquarters set up to fight the pandemic.

The measure will trace “citizens who are in contact with patients with new coronavirus infection on the basis of information from cellular operators about the geolocation of a cell phone of a particular person”.

Russia has registered 71 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the country's total to 438, official data showed Monday.


Poland may impose further constraints on citizens to prevent the spread of coronavirus given the likelihood of a sharp increase in the number of infections this week, senior government officials said on Monday.

The cabinet was expected to discuss further restrictions on Monday as Poland expects the number of infections to jump to a few thousand by the end of the week, Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin said.

More Polish prisoners will be given the possibility to serve their sentences at home due to the coronavirus epidemic, under a justice ministry proposal that could benefit up to 20,000 convicts.

Poland has so far reported 684 cases of coronavirus, including eight deaths. It has shut schools, cinemas and other public venues, banned the entry of foreigners into the country and urged Poles to stay at home if at all possible.

Some prisoners are already allowed to serve their sentences at home under electronic surveillance.

“We propose raising the upper limit of a sentence or the total length of sentences which can be served in the electronic supervision system to 18 months,” the justice ministry said in a statement.

Until now it was possible for sentences of up to a year.


Montenegro has reported its first COVID-19 death, a 65-year-old man who tested positive for the disease shortly before dying hospital, Montenegrin authorities have confirmed.

The patient, from the city of Herceg Novi, was admitted to hospital in Podgorica on Sunday morning for chronic lung disease and analysis of a swab sample confirmed coronavirus infection, said the joint statement of the Institute of Public Health and the Clinical Center of Montenegro.

Boban Mugosa, director of the Institute for Public Health, said the first reported death indicates the epidemic is spreading, and warned citizens to heed "all prescribed measures and orders" to protect themselves from exposure.

Director of the Clinical Center Jevto Erakovic said the patient had spent time in coronavirus-hit Serbia in the first half of this month.

"The medical staff did everything that could have be done, used all necessary protective equipment and all procedures prescribed by the standards for the treatment of such patients," Erakovic added, warning people to take the threat of COVID-19 more seriously.

There are 5,565 people under health surveillance in Montenegro, authorities said. Mugosa said 22 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Montenegro so far.

The country has imposed strict lockdown measures, including the closure of schools, a ban on public gatherings, and restrictions on land and sea passenger transport -- even before the country confirmed the first case.

Since then, the number of people in public institutions has been restricted, while all people returning from abroad will have to spend at least two weeks in isolation. Stores that don't trade vital supplies have been closed, along with cafes and restaurants, while hotels remain open but must adhere to strict conditions.

Several hotels on the Adriatic coast have been designated by the government as COVID-19 quarantine facilities. 


French lawmakers approved tougher penalties for defying a nationwide confinement order as the coronavirus death toll rose on Sunday, with a first member of the country's medical profession among the victims.

The coronavirus death toll recorded by French hospitals rose by 112 to 674 on Sunday, officials said, while the number of confirmed cases increased by 11 percent to 16,018 over 24 hours.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said France was expecting preliminary results within two weeks from a clinical test of the effectiveness of anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19, the condition caused by the virus.

ALSO READ: Spain eyes emergency extension as Italy deaths jump by 800


Italy banned travel within the country on Sunday in yet another attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, as data showed a further 651 people had died from the disease, lifting the number of fatalities to 5,476. 

The government also issued an order freezing all business activity deemed non-essential, including car, clothing and furniture industries, in an effort to keep ever more people at home and off the streets.

The interior and health ministries issued a separate statement, telling people they had to stay where they were, unless urgent business or health reasons forced them to move to another town or region.

The number of confirmed cases in Italy has risen by 5,560 to 59,138 on Sunday, the Civil Protection Agency said.

Inmates extend their hands at the Modelo prison in Bogota after a riot, on March 22, 2020. (DANIEL MUNOZ / AFP)


A prison riot in Colombia's capital Bogota late on Saturday left 23 prisoners dead and 83 injured, the justice minister said on Sunday, as detainees protested sanitary conditions amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Andean country will enter a nationwide lockdown meant to stem infections from Tuesday night. So far 231 people have been confirmed infected with the disease and two have died.

The office of the human rights ombudsman called on the government to declare a prison emergency which could allow early release for older prisoners.


The Spanish government announced that - starting at midnight - it will restrict entry for most foreigners at air and sea ports for the next 30 days. 

Meanwhile, some regions on Sunday asked for harsher confinement measures to combat the pandemic.

Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo was hospitalized on Sunday with respiratory infection and is awaiting coronavirus test results, the government said in a statement on Monday.

“The deputy Prime Minister went to a hospital yesterday afternoon and after medical tests were carried out doctors decided she had to remain there to receive treatment for a respiratory infection,” the statement said.

Calvo, born in 1957, was tested for coronavirus and the results will be released as soon as they are known, the statement added.

Spain's death toll rose to 1,720 on Sunday from 1,326 the day before, while the number of registered cases rose to 28,572 from 24,926, according to Health Ministry's data.

Czech Republic

A 95-year-old Czech man infected with the new coronavirus died on Sunday, the country's first victim of the pandemic, the chief of the Czech crisis committee said.

By Sunday, the Czech Republic had reported 1,120 cases of coronavirus infection.


The Romanian government confirmed on Sunday the first death in the country due to coronavirus.

Romania, which has recorded 367 cases of coronavirus to date, declared a state of emergency on March 16.

North Macedonia

A 57-year-old woman who died in hospital in the northern town of Kumanovo on Saturday evening became the North Macedonia's first victim of the coronavirus, health minister Venko Filipce said on Sunday.

North Macedonia, a country of 2 million people, has registered 114 cases of people infected with the coronavirus.


Slovenian Health Minister Tomaz Gantar announced Sunday that a second coronavirus patient has died.

The two people who have died were around 90 years old and had other accompanying illnesses, said Gantar.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Slovenia rose by 31 to 414 by 2 pm on Sunday.


A fourth person infected with COVID-19 has died while another 121 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Ireland on Sunday, bringing to 906 the total number of such cases in the country, said Ireland's Department of Health.

 An analysis of 712 cases identified as of March 20 showed that there is now at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 in each of the 26 counties in Ireland, said the department.

The analysis, which was released by the health department on its website on Sunday, also showed that 159 healthcare workers have been infected with COVID-19, accounting for more than one-fifth of the country's total.


Panama health officials reported 68 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, up 28 percent from the previous day, bringing the total number of infected persons in the Central American country to 313.

Lourdes Moreno, national director of epidemiology, told reporters that while three deaths have been registered a fourth suspected fatality as a result of coronavirus is being investigated.

ALSO READ: 'Strange pneumonia cases seen in Italy' before China outbreak


The Canadian death toll from the coronavirus outbreak jumped by more than 50 percent on Sunday, and impatient officials threatened to punish people refusing to take precautions to fight the spread of the highly contagious illness.

The number of deaths from the respiratory disease rose to 20 by 6 pm (2200 GMT) on Sunday from 13 the previous day, Ottawa said, while the number of confirmed cases jumped to 1,430 from 1,099. There are coronavirus cases in all 10 Canadian provinces.

Ottawa said people who have returned from abroad must isolate themselves for 14 days and Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she could use the federal Quarantine Act to sanction those ignoring that requirement.

Nova Scotia on Sunday became the last of Canada's provinces to declare a state of emergency, closing borders to non-residents and threatening to arrest those who do not practice self-distancing.


Sweden on Sunday had 1,906 confirmed cases of the respiratory disease - or 17 per 100,000 citizens - and 21 deaths.

South Africa

South Africa on Sunday reported 34 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the country's total to 274.

Of the country's nine provinces, seven provinces have so far reported COVID-19 cases.The only provinces with no cases are Northern Cape and North West.


Uganda's communication regulatory body on Sunday vowed to crack down on people spreading fake videos and misinformation concerning COVID-19 through social media.

Related wrongdoers "shall be apprehended and prosecuted for offending the Computer Misuse Act 2011, the Data Protection and Privacy Act and other Penal laws of Uganda," the Uganda Communications Commission said in a statement

Uganda registered its first confirmed COVID-19 case on Sunday after a man returning from Dubai tested positive.


Seven people have been detained in Portugal by security forces for the crime of disobedience under the state of emergency amid the COVID-19 outbreak, a Portuguese minister said Sunday.

Any disobedience under the state of emergency shall be punished with imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of up to 120 days, according to the Portuguese law. A day fine is based on the offender's daily personal income.

Portugal has so far reported 1,600 COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths. 


Cameroon reported on Monday 16 new cases of COVID-19 in three major cities of the country, bringing the total to 56, according to Cameroon's Minister of Public Health Manaouda Malachie.

"We have just tested 26 samples and 16 are positive... a total of 56 cases to date." Manaouda tweeted Monday morning, adding that 9 cases were reported in the country's commercial hub Douala, 6 in the capital Yaounde, and one in the western city of Bafoussam.


East Libya will impose a full curfew for 10 days from Wednesday in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus, though medicine can be delivered by telephone if necessary, the military said on Monday.


Moroccan King Mohammed VI on Sunday ordered the military to turn over all its medical facilities and staff, as part of the government's response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Also on Sunday, Morocco declared a one-month state of medical emergency, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country climbed to 115.


A total of 30 confirmed coronavirus cases have been recorded in Nigeria, with eight more cases reported on Sunday, local health authorities said.


Egypt confirmed on Sunday 33 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total cases in the country to 327, the Egyptian Health Ministry said in a statement.

In addition, four new deaths have been confirmed on Sunday, bringing the death toll to 14, the ministry's spokesman Khaled Megahed revealed in the statement.

Egypt's state-run Al-Ahram news website reported earlier on Sunday that an army general died of COVID-19 after he took part in the country's efforts in fighting the deadly virus.


Switzerland reported 901 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, raising the total to 7,014, according to the latest data provided by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health.

So far, 60 people have died from the disease in the country, according to the government's figures.


Cyprus confirmed 11 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, raising the total for the part of the island under the jurisdiction of the internationally recognized government to 95, according to the Health Ministry.

Among the 11 new infections were the two doctors who made the announcement of the daily tally on Sunday.


Denmark's Ministry of Health announced Sunday an expansion of its COVID-19 testing strategy.

The new specific recommendations from the National Board of Health now call for testing on all suspected moderate to severe COVID-19. In addition, pregnant women must be tested on a precautionary principle and newborn children should be tested if symptoms are shown.

The recommendations also include people with mild to moderate symptoms performing critical functions in health care, elderly care, and working with socially disadvantaged or other important community functions.

Denmark has 1,395 confirmed infections with 13 deaths, according to the State Serum Institute on Sunday. 

Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea on Sunday reported three new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to nine, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

ALSO READ: Jack Ma Foundation wins applause as supplies arrive in Ethiopia


Two more deaths from the novel coronavirus were reported in Algeria on Sunday, bringing the total death toll to 17, while confirmed infections rose to 201, a government task force said.

Earlier on Sunday, Algeria announced the activation of level III alert related to COVID-19 as infections have been reported in 17 out of the North African nation's 48 provinces. 

Burkina Faso

The US ambassador to Burkina Faso, Andrew Young, announced on Sunday that he had tested positive for COVID-19 in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso.

So far, Burkina Faso has officially reported 75 cases and five death cases of COVID-19, including four ministers.

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