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Angela Merkel quarantined, Rand Paul tests positive, Ohio on lockdown

Here are the latest updates from around the world.
Image: The nearly empty 42nd Street in New York on March 22, 2020.
The nearly empty 42nd Street in New York on March 22, 2020.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The number of global coronavirus cases surged past 300,000 on Sunday, with more than 13,000 deaths worldwide, according to John Hopkins University, which reported that China, Italy and the U.S. had the most people diagnosed with the respiratory illness.

The news came as the number of Americans under virtual lockdown grew to over 80 million on Saturday, and Ohio issued new shelter-in-place orders.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is herself in quarantine after a doctor who treated her tested positive for coronavirus, her press office announced Sunday.

And Sen. Rand Paul became the first known U.S. Senator to test positive for coronavirus.

“He is feeling fine and is in quarantine. He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events,“ the senator’s Twitter account said on Sunday.

Elsewhere, China ended a three-day streak of reporting no new coronavirus cases after 46 people tested positive positive for COVID-19. On the same day, China's National Health Commission also reported six new deaths. Five of the deaths occurred in Wuhan in Hubei province, where the outbreak originated late last year.

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This live coverage has ended. Continue reading March 23 Coronavirus news.

923d ago / 12:39 PM UTC

Powerful earthquake strikes Croatian capital Zagreb amid coronavirus epidemic

A strong earthquake shook Croatia and its capital on Sunday, causing widespread damage and panic as the country is facing a growing number of coronavirus cases.

Officials said there were injuries, but gave no other immediate details.

The earthquake struck amid a partial lockdown of the capital because of the spread of the coronavirus. People were told to avoid public areas, such as parks and public squares, but had no choice as they ran out of their apartments.

The country has so far recorded 206 coronavirus cases and one death. 

923d ago / 12:18 PM UTC

Singapore to ban on all short-term visitors


Singapore will not allow any short-term visitors to transit or enter the city-state from Monday to curb the spread of the coronavirus and conserve health care resources. 

The measure was taken in view of the heightened risk of importation of coronavirus cases into Singapore, its ministry of health said Sunday, adding that nearly 80 percent of new cases in the last three days were imported, most of them Singapore residents returning home from abroad.

The city-state, with a small and open economy, reported its first fatalities from the virus on Saturday and has confirmed 432 cases of the infection.



923d ago / 11:34 AM UTC

Global coronavirus cases top 300,000 as 13,000 deaths recorded

The number of global coronavirus cases surged past 300,000 on Sunday, with more than 13,000 deaths worldwide, according to John Hopkins University.

China, Italy and the United States, were the three countries with the most cases according to the university's coronavirus resource center. 

Italy has recorded 4,825 deaths, followed by China, where the pandemic began, with 3,144, and Iran with 1,556. 

923d ago / 10:56 AM UTC

India starts 14-hour curfew to curb coronavirus spread

India launched a 14-hour long curfew on Sunday to limit the fast-spreading coronavirus epidemic in the country, where 315 people have so far been found to have contracted the disease.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an address to the nation last week urged citizens to stay indoors from 5 p.m. local time (9:30 p.m. ET) until Monday morning  - a move that he said would be a crucial test for a country to assess its abilities to fight the pandemic.

“Let us all be a part of this curfew, which will add tremendous strength to the fight against the COVID-19 menace,” Modi tweeted minutes before the curfew commenced. “The steps we take now will help in the times to come. 

So far, 195 coronavirus cases and four deaths have been confirmed in India. 

923d ago / 10:05 AM UTC

First coronavirus cases confirmed in Gaza


Health officials in the densely-populated Gaza Strip confirmed the first cases of coronavirus Sunday. 

Two Palestinians who had traveled from Pakistan and entered Gaza through Egypt had tested positive for the virus late on Saturday and have been in quarantine in Rafah, a town near the Egyptian border, since their arrival on Thursday, the Gaza health ministry said.

Schools and public markets have all been shut in Gaza over the past two weeks to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission.

The coastal enclave, measuring 145 square miles is home to around 2 million Palestinians.

923d ago / 9:35 AM UTC

U.K.'s Johnson urges Brits to avoid 'unnecessary physical contact' on Mother's Day

Image: British PM Johnson gives daily address to nation on coronavirus in London
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on during a coronavirus news conference inside 10 Downing Street in London on Thursday, March 19. Leon Neal / Reuters

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised the public to “avoid any unnecessary physical contact” on Mother’s Day.  

“This time the best thing is to ring her, video call her, Skype her, but to avoid any unnecessary physical contact or proximity,” Johnson said in an open letter published in The Sunday Times newspaper. “And why? Because if your mother is elderly or vulnerable, then I am afraid all the statistics show that she is much more likely to die from coronavirus, or COVID-19. We cannot disguise or sugarcoat the threat.”

Johnson told reporters Friday he hoped to see his own mother on Sunday, but he later changed his mind, according to media reports in the country, where his government told restaurants, pubs, gyms and cinemas to close down on Friday in a bid to contain the epidemic.

923d ago / 9:01 AM UTC

Inside hard-hit Italian hospital as coronavirus death toll surges

923d ago / 8:33 AM UTC

Spanish PM warns 'worst is yet to come' as country's death toll tops 1,300


Health workers wave during a break outside a hospital in Burgos, Spain on Friday, March 20. Cesar Manso / AFP - Getty Images

Spain's prime minister warned "the worst is yet to come" for his nation Saturday, as the country's death toll topped 1,300. 

"These past days, regional leaders have said that this situation is the most critical we have lived since Second World War. I think they're right," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in televised national address Saturday evening. "These circumstances are putting us to the test."

Sanchez said Spain, which has recorded 1,326 deaths and nearly 25,000 confirmed cases, has implemented the toughest measures in Europe, and one of the toughest in the world. The country's 47 million inhabitants were put under partial lockdown last week as part of a 15-day state of emergency to combat the coronavirus epidemic.

"Sadly, the worst is yet to come," Sanchez said. "We have very tough days ahead."

923d ago / 7:54 AM UTC

Outdoor exercise banned in new restrictive order in Italy's Lombardy region


The governor of Italy's Lombardy region, one of the hardest hit areas in the coronavirus epidemic, signed a new order Saturday imposing even more stringent restrictions on residents.

The order, signed by Attilio Fontana and valid until at least Apr. 15, banned outdoor exercise and implemented temperature checks at supermarkets and pharmacies. 

The new, tougher measures come as the number of coronavirus deaths across Italy reached 4,825, with 53,578 cases confirmed to date.

Meanwhile, country's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte addressed the nation in a Facebook live stream Saturday night to announce that every plant in the country that's not absolutely necessary to guarantee essential goods and services will be shuttered effective Sunday. 

923d ago / 5:13 AM UTC

Police in Arizona say man stole 29 test kits

A man was wanted by authorities in Tucson, Arizona, for allegedly walking off with 29 coronavirus test kits, police said Saturday.

The suspect was dressed as a delivery driver and made off with the kits as the city's El Rio Health Center was just about to close Friday night, Tucson police said in a statement.

The move was all for naught, authorities said, as the kits are virtually useless outside a lab, and the center has already replaced them. 

"Do not buy kits from anyone claiming to have Corona Virus Test Kits or COVID-19 Test Kits," the department said. "It is a scam! There are currently no home test kits for the virus."

923d ago / 5:11 AM UTC

China reports 46 new COVID-19 cases, ending 3-day streak

China ended a three-day streak of reporting no new coronavirus cases on Saturday after 46 people tested positive positive for COVID-19. 

On the same day, China's National Health Commission also reported six new deaths. Five of the deaths occurred in Wuhan in Hubei province, where the outbreak originated late last year.

China said 45 of the new cases were imported. 

923d ago / 4:42 AM UTC

Colombia reports first COVID-19 death

Colombia reported on Saturday the country's first death from COVID-19.

The patient was a 58-year-old taxi driver from the coastal city of Cartagena, health minister Fernando Ruiz said in a tweet.

The driver had recently transported Italian tourists and developed symptoms two days later on March 16, Ruiz said. He was first tested on March 13 but two tests came back negative.

Multiple people who came into contact with the taxi driver, including his sister, a doctor and a passenger, also tested positive for coronavirus, according to Martha Ospina, director of Colombia's National Institute of Health.

More than 200 people have tested positive for the virus in Colombia, according to the health ministry.

923d ago / 4:21 AM UTC

L.A. police could start 12-hour shifts, raising COVID-19 fears among rank and file


LOS ANGELES — As residents settle in for weeks of isolation, police Chief Michel Moore has told officers he hopes the city’s stay-at-home initiative designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus can be gently enforced.

He said most residents were following the "Safer at Home" order, which allows essential businesses to remain open and critical public functions to continue but directs most other people to stay home and avoid gatherings.

“Enforcement of it is through awareness, through education, through outreach,” Moore said in a video message and an internal memo to Los Angeles Police Department officers, which also directed the rank-and-file to begin providing security at emergency shelters for the homeless.

He told officers the city is entering a new phase in its response to the pandemic and could begin to move officers to 12-hour shifts with fewer days off as soon as Monday.

Read the full story here.

923d ago / 2:30 AM UTC

New Jersey issues stay-at-home order

923d ago / 2:26 AM UTC

New Yorkers tie the knot at park after marriage bureau closes

The New York City marriage bureau shut down Friday as part of the city's efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus. But that didn't stop some New Yorkers from finding a way to tie the knot anyway. 

Alex Brook Lynn and her husband, Adam Levy, planned to have a normal wedding. But as COVID-19 cases rose and the illness was declared a pandemic, they decided to speed up the process to get Lynn on Levy's insurance. Upon hearing the news of the marriage bureau's closure, the pair knew they had to figure out a plan B. So, they went to the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse and found a judge to marry them in Collect Pond Park, right across the street. 

"There's no one I would rather go through dystopia with," Lynn told NBC News.

A few friends were there to witness them say their vows, Lynn said. And following the ceremony, the judge ended up marrying another couple that was in the park. 

"There's this constant hustle in the city and when it's working for good, it can be really good and it can feel safe in the city," Lynn added.