German Chancellor Angela Merkel has gone into quarantine after being informed that a doctor who administered a vaccine to her has tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Merkel's spokesman said the German chancellor, who is 65, was informed about the doctor's test shortly after holding a news conference Sunday announcing new measures to curb the spread of the virus.
Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel had received a precautionary vaccine Friday against pneumococcal infection.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever or coughing. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. About 93,800 people have recovered, mostly in China.
Seibert said in a statement that Merkel would undergo "regular tests" in the coming days and continue with her work from home for the time being.
Merkel had earlier expressed her gratitude to Germans who were following the rules on social distancing, saying it was important to remain at least 1.5 meters (about five feet) apart to reduce the likelihood of infection.
The development illustrated how even world leaders aren't free from the risk of infection.
"With a certain distance the risk of infections is reduced almost to zero," Merkel told reporters. "Whether you are half a meter apart or 1.5 meters apart makes a huge difference."
Seconds later, she was informed that her doctor had tested positive for COVID-19.
Italy's tally of coronavirus cases and deaths continues to soar, with officials on Saturday announcing new day-to-day highs: 793 dead and 6,557 cases.
The country, at the heart of western Europe's rampaging outbreak, now counts 53,578 known cases.
Across the Atlantic, New York state officials considered establishing temporary hospitals on college campuses and in New York City's main convention center in preparation for a possible onslaught of coronavirus patients, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.
Cuomo said the government is seeking to increase hospital bed capacity by 50 percent — up to 25,000 more beds. Officials have also identified 2 million protective masks to send to hot spots.
The state is reviewing four possible locations for temporary hospitals, which would be operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. The governor also said 1 million N-95 masks are being sent to New York City on Saturday, with another 500,000 masks going to Long Island. He is also trying to find a supplier for more gowns, and clothing companies are converting to make masks.
"Everything that can be done is being done," he said, adding, 'We are literally scouring the globe looking for medical supplies."
New York has seen about 10,400 coronavirus cases, and about 1,600 people hospitalized. Spread of the rapidly advancing virus has strained health care systems across the globe, and three American states with a combined population of 70 million are moving to restrict residents to their homes to prevent its spread. California started restricting residents Friday, and New York and Illinois were to follow this weekend. Connecticut and Oregon were preparing to do the same.
In Italy, more than 60 percent of the latest deaths occurred in the northern region of Lombardy, whose hospitals have been reeling under a staggering case load that has left intensive care beds hard to find and respirators in short supply.
Officials said that on Sunday a team of 65 Cuban doctors and nurses, with experience in battling Ebola outbreaks, will arrive in northern Italy to help in the hard-hit Lombardy town of Cremona.
Italian health officials realize they need to shorten the time between emergence of symptoms and diagnosis, said Silvio Brusaferro, the head of the national Superior Health Institute. Currently that lag is about five days, he said.
The new increases come nearly two weeks into a national lockdown in a desperate bid to contain the contagion.
Almost a week into tight restrictions on free movement and the closure of most shops in Spain, police intensified their efforts to enforce confinement rules with fines and extra patrols to stop city-dwellers with second homes in the country from leaving town for the weekend.
Spain now has the third-highest number of infections worldwide. On Saturday it reported almost 5,000 new cases in the past day, bringing the total to nearly 25,000. The death toll rose to 1,326, up from 1,002 Friday.
As hospitals and nursing homes buckle under the burden of the virus outbreak, Spanish health authorities have acknowledged that some intensive care units in the hardest-hit areas are close to their limit, and warned that they expect infections to continue to rise before measures to reverse the trend have an effect.
The army was building a field hospital with 5,500 beds in a convention center in Madrid, where hotels are also being turned into wards for virus patients without serious breathing problems.
Dr. Olga Meridiano, who treated victims of a 2004 jihadist bomb attack in Madrid that killed nearly 200 people and wounded many times more, said nothing prepared her for the national health tragedy that Spain is now enduring.
"I have been through many situations," she said from the central city of Guadalajara, where she works in a public hospital. "But nothing is like this."
"If we keep seeing daily increases of 23%, this cannot be withstood much longer," Meridiano said. "We are doubling up on our shifts. We have strategies to hang in there this week, but beyond that we need the situation to improve because we professionals are bearing a lot of pressure, including emotional."
In Germany's southern state of Bavaria, town squares were empty. Pigeons outnumbered people in London's usually bustling Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square a day after the British government ordered the closure of all bars, restaurants, movie theaters and other places where people congregate.
But shoppers still flocked to street markets in both countries, in a sign that restrictions were being interpreted in a patchwork fashion.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded in Africa rose above 1,000 Saturday, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 40 of Africa's 54 countries now have cases.
Almost 287,000 cases have been confirmed globally, including more than 11,900 deaths, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 89,000 people have recovered.
For most people, the new virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority recover.
Officials in many countries are desperate to prevent — or at least limit — a repeat of what has happened in China and southern Europe. The coronavirus outbreak overwhelmed medical services in the central Chinese city of Wuhan earlier this year and now is pushing them to the limit in Italy, Spain and France.
Italy's surging case numbers have frustrated health officials. Statements by authorities earlier on in the outbreak had raised hopes that new infections might soon start dropping off. But on Friday, officials reported further record increases, with 5,986 new cases and 627 new deaths. The country, which has Europe's largest outbreak, now has at least 47,021 cases and 4,032 dead.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza called for a "great alliance" between citizens and institutions, saying "what counts more is the behavior of every individual." Giuseppe Sala, mayor of Milan, capital of the hardest-stricken region of Lombardy, tried to rally the city's 1.4 million citizens, tweeting that "by now, we have understood, this is a marathon, not a sprint."
Germany's southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg on Saturday offered to take in patients from the neighboring French region of Alsace that's struggling with a surge of infections overwhelming hospitals.
Britain still lags behind Italy, Spain and France in the spread of the virus, but the country's overstretched health system is creaking. The state-funded National Health Service has about 4,000 critical-care beds and some 5,000 ventilators, and officials say that's far fewer than will be needed as the number of cases spikes in the coming weeks. Britain, which has recorded 3,983 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 177 deaths, has already asked 65,000 retired nurses and doctors to return to work.
Workers near Moscow are rushing to build a clinic to treat hundreds of coronavirus patients as Russia prepares for a wave of infections. Placards in the style of Soviet propaganda posters have been erected near the site, with one showing Mayor Sergei Sobyanin pointing at the viewer and the slogan "Builders — Minutes count!"
China has been sending aid to several European countries, promoting its expertise and experience gained from fighting the outbreak at home. An Air China flight carrying 18 tons of medical supplies including hundreds of thousands of surgical and protection masks landed in the Greek capital, Athens, Saturday morning.
As the pandemic has eased in Asia, China and other parts of the region are now trying to avoid importing cases from Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere.
China reported Saturday that its mainland had no new home-grown cases of the disease for the third straight day, but 41 imported ones in the previous 24-hour period.
Restrictions on movement are being eased gradually in China as it tries to restart the economy without bringing back the disease. Officials in Wuhan are permitting supermarkets, convenience stores and some other retail businesses to reopen from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. if they are in areas with no confirmed or suspected cases.
In the U.S., the restrictions on movement take effect Saturday in Illinois and Sunday in New York. All workers in nonessential businesses will be required to stay home and gatherings of any size are banned in New York. Exceptions will be made for important errands, such as buying groceries and medicine, and for exercise.
The lockdowns in California and other states sent stock markets tumbling again. Wall Street had its worst week since the 2008 financial crisis, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling more than 900 points and down 17% for the week.
A Navy sailor assigned to United States Central Command headquarters in Florida has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said more than 220,000 Americans have been screened at airports while returning to the United States from coronavirus affected countries.
Car maker BMW said it would shut down a huge manufacturing complex in South Carolina from April 3 to 19 and Nissan said it would suspend vehicle production at its two Mexican assembly plants from next Wednesday through April 14. Auto production has resumed in China, but only partially.
Turkey more than tripled the number of countries to which flights have been suspended to 68, as authorities banned picnics, barbecues and send-off gatherings for new soldiers.
Authorities in Cyprus turned away a boat carrying around 100 migrants, citing government directives banning the entry of foreign nationals to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Colombian President Iván Duque announced Friday night that everyone would be required to isolate in their homes for three weeks starting Tuesday. Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela already are in lockdown.
Some small relief came to the Madrid's Severo Ochoa hospital on Saturday when an army emergency unit arrived to take 15 patients to a huge field hospital the military set up in a convention center in the capital.
Otherwise, the hospital is working over capacity and receiving help from the local community: An educational center donated a load of masks and gloves. A group of football fan clubs brought hundreds of bottles of water.
For hospital spokesman Jorge Rivera, equally important is the support that normal citizens are showing the nation's health workers each evening at 8 p.m. when Spaniards open their windows and applaud, shout, flash lights, and sometimes blast music to show their appreciation for their efforts.
"For us, it is a boost of adrenaline, for our morale," Rivera said from work. "It says that we are all in this together, working to get through this emergency and recover our lives."
Italy has recorded its highest day-to-day-rise in the number of deaths of people infected with the new coronavirus.
Civil Protection Chief Angelo Borrelli said Friday the country recorded 627 more deaths in the 24 hours since Italy surpassed China on Thursday as the nation with the most COVID-19-related deaths. The total now stands at 4,032.
Authorities said most of the people who died had existing health problems such as heart disease and diabetes before they were infected with the virus.
Borrelli says Italy also saw a staggering increase of 5,986 cases from a day earlier, bringing the official total in Italy to 47,021.
The soaring numbers come despite a national lockdown that drastically limits when residents are allowed to leave their homes. Police have issued citations to thousands of people for being out and about without valid reasons, such as going to work or shopping for food.
Mayors and governors throughout the country have been demanding even stricter measures. Italy's national government is widely expected to respond soon.
For days now, Italian authorities have said at daily briefings that the virus outbreak that emerged in northern Italy four weeks ago could reach its peak in a matter of days and the number of new infections might start going down.
Borrelli addressed the question Friday by saying, ""We'll never know when the peaks will be" n advance. He noted that some experts have spoken of cases peaking "the next week or the week after" that.
Coronavirus has killed more people in Italy than in any other country, after deaths there rose by 427 in a day, reports BBC.
The number of deaths now stands at 3,405, which is more than in China where the virus originated last year.
There have been 3,245 deaths in China, but there have been questions over the reliability of its data.
A lockdown imposed on 12 March in Italy has been extended beyond the original 25 March end date. Nearly all Italians have been told to stay at home.
Despite these measures, the number of new cases and deaths has continued to spiral. There have been 220,000 cases of the virus worldwide with more than 9,000 deaths.
China confirmed it had no new domestic cases on Wednesday for the first time since the outbreak began, a major milestone.
But it reported 34 new cases among people who had recently returned to China. The number of cases in the country - more than 81,000 - is still far higher than in Italy, which has 41,035.
What's the latest in Italy?
Italy shut down most businesses and banned public gatherings nationwide on 12 March as it tried to halt the spread of the virus.
Bars, restaurants and most shops have closed, as have schools and universities.
The lockdown has been extended, and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said it had helped prevent "the collapse of the system".
But he told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that "we will not be able to return immediately to life as it was before" even when the measures were ended.
A report by the Istituto Superiore di Sanita into the deaths in Italy of 2,003 people confirmed to be positive for coronavirus found that three regions, all in the north, were by far the worst hit.
Some studies point to the large number of elderly in the affected regions, and that a large proportion of 18-34s live at home with them. Different demographics in other nations may have helped to keep the death toll lower.
What about the rest of Europe?
The European Central Bank (ECB) has launched an emergency €750bn ($820bn; £700bn) package to ease the impact of the pandemic, with boss Christine Lagarde tweeting "there are no limits" to its commitment to the euro.
France began its lockdown on Tuesday morning. It requires citizens who are in public places to carry official paperwork stating why they are not at home or face a fine.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told Europe 1 radio on Thursday that the lockdown might be extended beyond the originally stated 15 days.
He said 4,095 fines had been handed out to transgressors and 70,000 control checks made since Wednesday morning. The fine is €135 ($150; £123).
"Some people think they're some kind of modern-day hero when they break the rules - but they're imbeciles, and a danger to themselves," Mr Castaner said.
Elsewhere, the number of deaths in Spain rose by 209 in a single day. The number of infected people there rose by 3,431, reaching 17,147.
Spain is the world's fourth-worst affected country and is under nationwide lockdown.
Germany has not imposed stringent measures, although it has closed schools and many businesses and public spaces. But a speech by Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday appeared to be a final warning to avoid mandatory lockdowns.
"The situation is serious. Take it seriously," she said.
The UK has also not imposed stringent lockdown measures as yet but has announced schools will close. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he could not give any date for when they might reopen.
London is the worst-affected area in the UK and has now begun to slim down transport services.
But the prime minister's spokesman said the government had no plans to bring in blanket travel restrictions for London or shut down the city's transport system.
"There is zero prospect of any restriction being placed on travelling in or out of London," he told reporters.
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 227,000 people and killed more than 9,300. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 84,500 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
—Italy passes China for most coronavirus-related deaths.
—UN Secretary-General: World "is at war with a virus."
—Queen Elizabeth II urging British people to "work as one" to defeat virus.
ROME — Italy has become the country with the most coronavirus-related deaths, surpassing China by registering 3,405 dead.
Italy reached the gruesome milestone on the same day the epicenter of the pandemic, Wuhan, China, recorded no new infections. Overall, China on Thursday counted 3,249 dead, 156 fewer than Italy, according to the Johns Hopkins University virus map.
Both Italy's death toll and its new infections shot up again, adding 427 more dead and 5,322 more infections. Overall, Italy has recorded 41,035 infections, more than half of the world's positive cases.
Italy's health care system has been overwhelmed by the virus, and on Thursday a visiting Chinese Red Cross team criticized the failure of Italians to fully quarantine and take the national lockdown seriously.
LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II has urged British people to "work as one" to defeat the coronavirus pandemic.
In a rare first-person message, the queen acknowledged that many individuals and families "are entering a period of great concern and uncertainty."
"At times such as these, I am reminded that our nation's history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal," she said.
The queen thanked medics, scientists and emergency workers, and said "we all have a vitally important part to play" in overcoming the pandemic.
The 93-year-old monarch and her husband Prince Philip, 98, moved to their Windsor Castle residence on Thursday. They usually spend Easter there but have gone a week early, with a slimmed-down staff, because of the outbreak.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch medical care minister has resigned, a day after slumping to the floor during a parliamentary debate about the government's handling of the coronavirus.
The Dutch royal house announced King Willem-Alexander had accepted Bruno Bruins' resignation. It did not give a reason for the minister leaving office.
Bruins collapsed in parliament Wednesday night and was quickly helped to his feet by a fellow Cabinet minister. He later tweeted that he felt faint due to exhaustion and was heading home to rest so he could return to work Thursday.
Bruins has been one of the busiest ministers in government as Dutch authorities attempt to rein in the spread of the coronavirus.
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the world "is at war with a virus" and warned that "a global recession — perhaps of record dimensions — is a near certainty."
The U.N. chief said "people are suffering, sick and scared" and stressed that current responses by individual countries will not address "the global scale and complexity of the crisis."
"This is a moment that demands coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world's leading economies," Guterres told reporters from U.N. headquarters. "We must recognize that the poorest countries and most vulnerable — especially women — will be the hardest hit."
He welcomed next week's emergency summit of leaders of the Group of 20 major economic powers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic saying he will participate with the message that this is an unprecedented situation which requires creativity — "and the magnitude of the response must match its scale."
BERLIN — German authorities have called off an official ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the liberation from Nazi rule because of the coronavirus epidemic.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was due to speak at the event in Berlin on May 8. But the interior ministry said Steinmeier has decided the event shouldn't go ahead in the current circumstances.
The ministry said that it hasn't yet been decided how the anniversary of Nazi Germany's surrender will now be marked.
Russia is still planning a massive May 9 military parade on Red Square marking the 75th anniversary of the World War II victory, the nation's most important holiday. President Vladimir Putin has invited many global leaders.
LONDON — The Church of England says couples should scale back their special day because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Britain's state-established Protestant church says church weddings should be attended only by the couple, the officiating minister and the two witnesses required by law. New guidance issued Thursday says attendees, apart from the couple, should observe as much distance as possible.
The church suggests the ceremony could be streamed online for those unable to attend, or couples could hold a public blessing once the outbreak is over. And it acknowledges that some couples may want to postpone their wedding altogether.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams is calling on Americans, particularly the younger generation, to consider donating blood to help assist healthcare providers battling the coronavirus outbreak.
The American Red Cross announced earlier this week that it faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during the virus outbreak.
Adams said donating blood remains safe and blood centers are taking extra precautions based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Israelis have stepped out onto their balconies and applauded health care personnel working to stop the coronavirus pandemic.
Around the country, despite rainy weather, Israelis came out to support medical staff, taking a cue from others in Europe who are taking at least a minute each night to come together in gratitude. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, joined in on the initiative.
Israel has identified more than 500 cases of the coronavirus. As elsewhere, Israeli medical staff risk infection as they try to keep the pandemic at bay.
Spain's government is announcing new measures to deal with a wave of more than 80 deaths and hundreds of infections with the new coronavirus reported this week in elderly nursing homes across the country.
Pablo Iglesias, deputy prime minister in charge of social affairs, said Thursday that 300 million euros (323 million dollars) will be provided for regional governments to spend on additional social workers and caretakers in homes for the elderly.
Iglesias acknowledged that workers at these facilities are "overwhelmed," and they are lacking needed protective suits and other medical material.
Authorities in Madrid, where 40% of the country's more than 17,000 infections have been identified, are discussing whether to bring military medics and other army resources into the region's nursing homes.
The Ministry of Health is also drafting a new series of guidelines for nursing homes to deal with infected patients. Many hospitals are reporting to be overwhelmed to deal with the influx of COVID-19 cases.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Canada-U.S. border likely will be closed to all non-essential travel in both directions on Friday night. He says it will take "weeks to months" for social-distancing measures in his country to be lifted.
Both the U.S. and Canada have been in talks in recent days to negotiate a mutual halt to tourism and family visits but leaving the flow of trade intact. Canada relies on the U.S. for 75% of its exports and about 18% of American exports go to Canada. Much of Canada's food supply comes from or via the U.S.
Trudeau says his government is following the advice of health experts and won't lift restrictions on public activities and movements in Canada until it is safe to do so. Trudeau made his comments in front of his residence where he is self-isolating after his wife tested positive for the virus. Canada has about confirmed 770 cases and nine deaths.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has discussed the coronavirus pandemic in a telephone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
A Kremlin statement says Putin gave "a high assessment of the results achieved by the People's Republic of China and the entire Chinese people in countering the spread of the disease." The call came as the number of COVID-19 cases in Russia continues to grow, reaching 199 on Thursday. No deaths from pneumonia attributed to the disease have been reported in Russia.
MONTE CARLO, Monaco — The palace of Monaco says Prince Albert II has tested positive for the coronavirus, but says there's little concern for his health.
In a statement, the palace says the 62-year-old is being treated by doctors from the Princess Grace Hospital, named after his U.S. actress mother.
Albert plans to continue working from his home office in the palace.
ATHENS, Greece — The government of Greece is ordering hotels to shut as part of measures to combat the spread of the new coronavirus.
The Tourism Ministry says hotels normally open year-round will shut down at midnight on the night of March 22 until the end of April to protect the health of staff.
One hotel per regional capital is allowed to remain open, along with three hotels in Athens and the country's second largest city of Thessaloniki, in northern Greece.
MOSCOW — Russian health officials say a woman in Russia reported to have died of the coronavirus actually died from a blood clot. Officials cited the results of the autopsy.
The statement brought Russia's official coronavirus death tally back to zero.
The 79-year-old woman was hospitalized last week and diagnosed with the virus. She was also suffering from multiple chronic conditions, including hypertension and heart disease. Pneumonia caused by the coronavirus was initially reported as the cause of death.
Russia has so far reported 199 cases of the virus and nine recoveries. Many in the country estimate the number is much higher, with infections going undetected as testing for the virus is not widespread.
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaican authorities say the country has recorded its first death from the coronavirus.
The island's health ministry says a 79-year-old man who suffered from diabetes and hypertension died Wednesday in a hospital in the capital of Kingston while being transferred from a hospital in western Jamaica. The man, who had recently returned to Jamaica from New York, visited the hospital on March 16, and was immediately isolated.
Jamaica had 15 confirmed cases of the virus and was awaiting results for six more people. There were 105 people in quarantine.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared the nation a "disaster area" on March 13 and suspended all non-essential activities. Citizens are being urged to work from home, groups of more than 20 are not permitted to gather and all schools have been closed for 14 days. The government has closed its cruise ship ports.
MILAN -- The head of a visiting Chinese Red Cross delegation helping Italy respond to the coronavirus crisis says people there aren't sufficiently adhering to lockdown measures and warns the only way to stop the virus' spread is by shutting down all economic activity.
Sun Shuopeng, executive chairman of the Red Cross Society of China.says he was shocked to see so many Milanese walking around the city, using public transportation, having dinners in hotels and not wearing protective masks.
Sun warned that Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the pandemic — only saw its infections peak after one month of a strictly enforced lockdown. He spoke on the same day that Wuhan for the first time registered no new infections. Italy is likely to overtake all of China in the number of virus-associated deaths.
BRUSSELS -- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is urging members of the military alliance not to cut defense spending as the coronavirus hits global economies.
Stoltenberg says the armed forces are providing support to the civilian society with logistics, military hospitals and patrol borders.
U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly chastised European allies and Canada for not spending enough on defense budgets.
NATO countries slashed spending as tensions eased after the Cold War. But after Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, members agreed to stop the cuts, boost defense budgets and move toward spending 2% of GDP on defense by 2024.
According to estimates in NATO's annual report, nine countries meet the benchmark -- the U.S., Greece, Britain, Bulgaria, Estonia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania -- up from three in 2014. Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg would spent less than 1%.