US President Donald Trump declares national emergency over COVID-19 as WHO chief calls Europe new epicentre of pandemic.

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United States President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, opening the door to providing what he said was about $50bn in federal aid to fight the disease.

On Friday, the World Health Organization warned that Europe has now become the “epicentre” for the pandemic, called COVID-19, reporting more daily cases than China did at the height of its outbreak.

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The pandemic’s global death toll has reached almost 5,000, while the global number of cases has surpassed 132,000, according to the WHO, which is the health agency of the United Nations. About 68,000 victims have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the virus.

The WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic as Italy tightened its strict quarantine and the US imposed a ban on flights to Europe.

Meanwhile, the virus has spread to at least 18 countries on the African continent, with Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Guinea all confirming their first cases on Friday.

Here are the latest updates:

Friday, March 13

20:34 GMT – US stocks surge; Dow Jones up 1,985 points

Wall Street roared back from its worst day in 30 years with a broad rally that sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average nearly 2,000 points higher – its biggest point gain ever – after Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency.

The Dow’s gains doubled in the last half-hour of trading as Trump made his remarks, giving the index its biggest percentage gain since 2008 and capping a rally that recouped many of the losses from a day earlier.

19:48 GMT – Qatar confirms 58 new cases

Qatar’s health ministry has confirmed 58 new cases of coronavirus, taking the Gulf state’s total number of infections to 320, state news agency QNA reported.

Fifty-four of the new cases are related to the cases identified earlier among expatriate workers, and most of these cases have already been in quarantine, it said. The other four cases are related to travel contacts.

19:32 GMT – Trump declares national emergency over coronavirus

US President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency in an attempt to thwart the spread of the new coronavirus in the country.

Announcing the decision at the White House, Trump said this will allow him to “unleash the full power of the federal government,” including freeing up to $50bn to assist state and local efforts.

Trump said he was also giving Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar emergency authority to waive federal regulations and laws to give doctors and hospitals “flexibility” in treating patients.

Trump coronavirus
Trump speaks at a news conference about the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic in the Rose Garden at the White House on March 13, 2020 in Washington, DC [Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP]

19:28 GMT – Cyprus shuts borders to non-European for 15 days

Cyprus will shut its borders for 15 days to any individual other than Cypriots, Europeans and persons with special permits in a precautionary move against coronavirus, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Friday.

The measure would come into effect March 15, he said in a state address.

18:57 GMT – Poland to block entry to foreigners from Sunday

Poland will ban foreigners from entering the country from Sunday and impose a 14-day quarantine on its citizens returning home in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

“The state will not abandon (its citizens). However, in the current situation we cannot allow ourselves to keep borders open to foreigners,” Morawiecki told a news conference.

Morawiecki also said shopping malls would be forced to close some shops, and restaurants, bars and casinos would be shuttered. Public gatherings would be allowed only if no more than 50 people were present.

18:48 GMT – Louisiana first state to postpone presidential primary

Louisiana became the first state in the United States to postpone a scheduled presidential primary election because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Voters in Louisiana were due to vote on April 4 in both Democratic and Republican primaries to select candidates for the November general election.

Secretary of State of Lousiana Kyle Ardoin said the vote will now take place on June 20.

18:39 GMT – Tunisia suspends prayers in mosques

Tunisia will immediately suspend prayers in mosques, close cafes at 4pm every day, and ban all cultural, sports and economic gatherings to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Tunisian Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh said.

The government has also closed Tunisia’s maritime borders, suspended all flights to and from Italy, in addition to reducing flights with Egypt, Germany, Britain and France.

Coronavirus precautions in Tunisia
Officials carry out disinfection as a precaution against COVID-19 at Al-Zaytuna Mosque in Tunis, Tunisia [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu]

Tunisia has confirmed 16 cases of the coronavirus, mostly among recent arrivals from Europe, and the disease is expected to hit its crucial tourism sector hard.

18:33 GMT – Syria bans shisha, closes schools over virus fears

Syrian authorities have announced measures aimed at preventing coronavirus from reaching the war-torn country, including school closures and a ban on smoking shisha in cafes, state media reported.

Damascus ordered the closure of all public and private schools, universities and technical institutes until April 2, SANA reported.

The government also cut civil servant staffing by 60 percent, slashed working hours and suspended the use of fingerprint scanners for public employees for a month, SANA said.

18:23 GMT – Denmark to close borders to foreigners

Denmark will close its borders as of noon on Saturday for non-citizens in a move to curb the spread of coronavirus, the Danish prime minister said.

“All tourists, all travel, all vacations, and all foreigners who cannot prove a creditable purpose of entering Denmark, will be denied entrance at the Danish border,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said.

The closure would not apply to the transport of goods, including foods, medicine and industry supplies.

18:10 GMT – India reports second death from coronavirus

India reported its second death from coronavirus, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said.

The patient was a 68-year-old woman with diabetes and hypertension and died in the country’s capital, New Delhi.

India, which has a population of 1.3 billion, has so far reported 82 confirmed cases of the virus.

18:00 GMT – Trump preparing to invoke emergency powers

United States President Donald Trump is preparing to invoke emergency powers as the country struggles to contain the coronavirus outbreak in the US, according to two people familiar with the planning who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It was still unclear on Friday, however, precisely what mechanism Trump would use to free up additional federal resources for testing and treatment as well as help those struggling with the economic effects.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

I will be having a news conference today at 3:00 P.M., The White House. Topic: CoronaVirus!

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17:21 GMT – Saudi Arabia suspends counting 2020 census

Saudi Arabia is suspending the counting phase of its 2020 general census until further notice because of the coronavirus outbreak, the General Authority for Statistics said in a statement.

The decision came as a precautionary measure over fears of coronavirus spread, the statement added.

Saudi Arabia on Friday reported 24 new cases of coronavirus, including 14 Egyptians, bringing the total in the kingdom to 86, state news agency SPA said, citing the health ministry.

No Paris mayoral election delay despite coronavirus outbreak

17:10 GMT – London and Boston Marathons postponed

The London Marathon, which was scheduled to take place on April 26, has been postponed until October 4.

The Boston Marathon, originally scheduled for April 4, has been pushed back by five months and is now expected to take place on September 14.

Virgin Money London Marathon

@LondonMarathon

The 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon has been postponed and is now scheduled to take place on Sunday 4 October 2020.

Full statement: http://bit.ly/VMLMVCV2020 

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Find out which other sports events have been cancelled or suspended due to the coronavirus.

17:08 GMT – Italy hits one-day record with 250 new deaths

Italy has recorded its highest one-day death toll yet from cases of the new coronavirus, according to official data.

There were 250 deaths recorded over the past 24 hours, taking the total to 1,266, with 17,660 infections overall, a rise of 2,547 since Thursday evening.

16:15 GMT – Brazil’s Bolsonaro tests negative for coronavirus

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said he had tested negative for the new coronavirus, after a scare over a trip on which at least one infected member of his staff rubbed shoulders with US President Donald Trump.

“The Armed Forces Hospital and [diagnostic laboratory] Sabin have returned a negative test result for COVID-19 for the President of the Republic Jair Bolsonaro,” said a post on the far-right leader’s Facebook page.

16:07 GMT – WHO chief: Europe now epicentre of virus pandemic

The head of the World Health Organization said Europe, not China, is now the epicentre of the world’s coronavirus pandemic.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva that “more cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.”

World Health Organization (WHO)

@WHO

Media briefing on with @DrTedros. https://www.pscp.tv/w/cTpSLjI2MTAyMHwxTHl4Qk5sWk9BeXhOII8cGgvkuf7TSY7b9Ssr0WoG-dD1Wwrre_lIiIoKG5g= 

Who @WHO

Media briefing on #COVID19 with @DrTedros. #coronavirus

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He noted that “5,000 people have lost their lives, a tragic milestone.”

He said Europe now has “more reported virus cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China.”

15:28 GMT –  Louvre Museum in Paris closed

The Louvre Museum in the French capital, Paris, said it was closing “until further notice” because of the coronavirus.

The closure of the museum, which had 9.6 million visitors last year, would come into effect from 17:00 GMT on Friday.

This came after the French government banned all gatherings of over 100 people to limit the spread of the virus.

People walk by the Louvre Museum, in Paris, Friday, March 13, 2020. The Louvre Museum in Paris and the Versailles Palace both said that they are closing
The Louvre Museum in Paris and the Versailles Palace both said that they are closing “until further notice” amid the French government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic [File: Thibault Camus/AFP]

15:25 GMT – Venezuela confirms first two coronavirus cases

Two people in Venezuela have tested positive for the coronavirus, marking the first cases in the South American country to be confirmed.

“Early today, two cases were certified,” Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said in a televised statement. “One 41-year-old citizen was traveling in the United States. The other was traveling in Spain.”

Classes at public and private schools will be suspended starting on Monday, she added.

15:15 GMT – #ToiletPaperApocalypse: What explains coronavirus panic buying

Dubbed #ToiletPaperPanic and #ToiletPaperApocalypse online, there is no shortage of videos capturing the mass hysteria that has swept up globally as shelves are cleared.

Canned goods, water bottles and pasta shelves have similarly been emptied out.

So, why are we seeing panic buying across the globe? Read more here.

15:05 GMT – Spain to declare state of emergency over virus

Spain will be in a state of emergency for the next 15 days to better combat the coronavirus, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said, after infections soared over 4,200 with 120 dead.

“There will be a cabinet meeting tomorrow to declare a state of alert across the country for a period of 15 days,” Sanchez said.

“Unfortunately, we cannot rule out that over the next week we could reach more than 10,000 infections,” he said.

The state of emergency will give the government power to take wide-ranging measures including temporarily occupying factories or any other premises except private homes.

15:03 GMT – Canadian Parliament shuts until April 20

Canada’s Parliament has agreed to shut down for more than a month while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau governed remotely from his home, in self-imposed quarantine after his wife tested positive for the new coronavirus

Canada’s House of Commons voted to shut down for at least five weeks to help ensure lawmakers do not contribute to the spread of the virus.

Australian health officials predict mass spread of coronavirus

14:25 GMT – Pakistan shuts all educational institutions

Pakistan has announced a countrywide shutdown of all educational institutions over fears of coronavirus spread, according to the education minister.

The announcement came after a meeting of the national security council attended by civilian and military leadership.

Shafqat Mahmood@Shafqat_Mahmood

In a meeting of the National Security Committee presided over PM Imran Khan, it has been decided to close all educational institutions in the country till April 5. This includes all schools and universities, public and private, vocational institutions and madaris.

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“It has been decided to close all educational institutions in the country till April 5. This includes all schools and universities, public and private, vocational institutions and madaris,” Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood tweeted.

13:46 GMT – Greece shuts all museums and ruins over coronavirus

Greece will close all its museums and archaeological sites, including the entire Acropolis that looms over Athens, until the end of the month due to the impact of the coronavirus, its culture ministry said.

Greece, with 117 confirmed cases and one fatality by late Thursday, has also cancelled public gatherings and shut down schools, theatres, cinemas and gyms.

Separately, the Hellenic Olympic Committee on Friday decided to suspend the remainder of the Olympic torch relay through the country to avoid attracting crowds because of the coronavirus.

A full moon rises above Greek Parthenon Temple (438 BC), covered by scaffolding, at the Acropolis archaeological site in Athens on February 9, 2020 .  LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP
A full moon rises above Greek Parthenon temple, covered by scaffolding, at the Acropolis archaeological site in Athens [File: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP]

13:23 GMT – Guinea reports first case

An employee of the European Union delegation in Guinea has tested positive for coronavirus, a delegation spokesman said on Friday, in Guinea’s first confirmed case of the virus.

The patient had self-isolated after she felt ill upon returning to Guinea from Europe, spokesman Alimou Sow told Reuters. Guinea’s government has not yet commented on the matter.

13:21 GMT – Sudan reports first coronavirus case

Sudan has reported its first confirmed coronavirus case, a man who died on Thursday and had visited the United Arab Emirates in the first week of March.

The man, in his 50s, died in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, the health ministry said in a statement.

Sudan on Thursday stopped visa issuance and flight services to eight countries including Italy and neighbouring Egypt over fears of the coronavirus outbreak. Bus trips to Egypt have also been suspended.

13:20 GMT – Spain’s coronavirus tally jumps to 4,209 cases, 120 dead

The Spanish health ministry said the number of coronavirus cases in the country jumped to 4,209 from Thursday’s figure of 3,004, as the disease spread mostly in Madrid, the Basque Country and La Rioja regions.

The death toll from the coronavirus epidemic in the country has increased to 120 from 84 the previous day.

Health authorities in the Madrid region said the number of cases rose to 2,078 on Friday.

13:13 GMT – Dutch coronavirus infections jump to 804, deaths double

The number of deaths of people with the coronavirus in the Netherlands has doubled to 10, Dutch health authorities said.

The number of infections rose to 802 from 614 a day earlier, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health said in a statement.

13:12 GMT – Prince Charles cancels trip to Bosnia, Cyprus, Jordan

The United Kingdom’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla have cancelled their tour of Bosnia, Cyprus and Jordan after being advised to do so by the British government, a spokesman for the royal couple said on Friday.

Queen Elizabeth II’s eldest son and heir had been due to visit from next Wednesday onward, but his office said the tour had been called off “owing to the unfolding situation with the coronavirus pandemic”.

Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, in the background, leave after attending the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in London, Monday, March 9, 2020. The an
Britain’s Prince Charles and Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, in the background, leave after attending the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in London [Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP]

12:41 GMT – F1: Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix postponed

The Formula One races in Bahrain and Vietnam have been postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Bahrain Grand Prix was scheduled to be held next week – at an empty track – and the inaugural Vietnamese Grand Prix was set to be held in Hanoi on April 5.

The first four races of the Formula One season have all been called off. The season-opening Grand Prix races in Australia and China were previously postponed.

Mick Schumacher steers a Ferrari car during his first F1 test for Ferrari at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Tuesday, April 2, 2019. Mick Schumacher has moved closer to emulating
The Bahrain Grand Prix race was scheduled to be held next week [File: Hassan Ammar/AP]

No new dates have been set for the races, but governing body FIA says it expects to begin the Formula One season in May when it reaches Europe with the Dutch Grand Prix.

12:38 GMT – Iran security forces to empty city streets

Iran’s security forces will empty the streets of its cities in the next 24 hours in a drive to fight the spread of the new coronavirus, state news agency IRNA reported on Friday.

Iran is one of the countries most affected by the pandemic outside China, with a death toll of 514, and a total of 11,364 diagnosed infections.

Tehran, Iran
A firefighter wearing protective clothing, mask and goggles, sprays disinfectant on the Tabia’t bridge pedestrian overpass in Tehran, Iran [File: Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg]

12:37 GMT – Czech Republic bans entry and exit

The Czech Republic will ban entry to the country to all foreign nationals as well as ban its own citizens and permanent residents from travelling abroad to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said.

The restrictions are to take effect as of Monday.

Special regulations and exemptions will apply to truck drivers, diplomats and commuters who live or work 50 kilometres from the border with Germany and Austria.

12:35 GMT – English Premier League suspended until April 4

All elite football matches in England, including the Premier League, have been suspended until April 4 due to the coronavirus pandemic, English football governing bodies said.

“Following a meeting of shareholders today, it was unanimously decided to suspend the Premier League with the intention of returning on April 4,” the Premier League said in a joint statement.

The English Football League (EFL), which oversees all professional tiers of English soccer below the top-flight, had announced the suspension of all football activity earlier in the day.

The Football Association (FA) said the professional game in England would be postponed until April 3 at the earliest.

Premier League

@premierleague

The Premier League, FA, EFL and WSL have collectively agreed to postpone the professional game in England

Full statement: https://preml.ge/hfjbr 

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The men’s and women’s FA Cup competitions have also been suspended.

This is Saba Aziz in Doha taking over from my colleague Tamila Varshalomidze.


12:32 GMT – France to ban gatherings of more than 100 people

The French government has moved to ban gatherings of more than 100 people in public places in French territory to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told TF1 TV.

“We are going to pass this limit on gatherings of 100 people,” he told TF1.

12:26 GMT – North Korea had military ‘on lockdown for 30 days’

North Korea had its military forces on lockdown for about 30 days, and in one instance, they did not fly a plane for 24 days even though the country has not confirmed any cases of coronavirus, the head of United States forces in South Korea said.

“Their armed forces has been fundamentally on lockdown for about 30 days and only recently have they started routine training again,” General Robert Abrams told reporters at the US Pentagon, adding that he was fairly confident the country had cases of the virus.

North Korea, sandwiched between China and South Korea, has not confirmed any coronavirus cases, but has stepped up border checks and imposed quarantine measures.

12:22 GMT – EU to set up $41m coronavirus investment initiative

The European Union will establish a 37-billion-euro ($41m) investment initiative as part of a package of measures to cushion the bloc’s economies from the impact of coronavirus, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

The EU will also guarantee eight billion euros ($8.9bn) in loans to 100,000 firms to support the corporate sector, von der Leyen said.

“I am convinced that the European Union can withstand this shock,” she said. “But each member state needs to live up to its full responsibility and the European Union as a whole needs to be determined, coordinated and united.”

11:58 GMT – Moldova to suspend flights to Europe

Moldova will suspend all flights to European destinations from Sunday for two weeks to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Ion Chicu told reporters at a briefing.

There are six confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Eastern European country, with no deaths recorded.

11:56 GMT – Rome cardinal rolls back on decree closing churches

A Rome cardinal abruptly modified his decree closing churches in the Italian capital in order to contain coronavirus after Pope Francis criticised “drastic measures” by churchmen.

Cardinal Angelo De Donatis issued a new decree less than a day after his initial one, which was widely criticised by common Catholics. Under the new decree, many of Rome’s churches will remain open.

11:50 GMT – Iraq puts Germany and Qatar on coronavirus entry ban list

Iraq has banned entry to travellers from Germany and Qatar, its health minister said, bringing the total number of countries on its entry ban list to 13 as it tries to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The ban does not extend to Iraqi citizens and foreign diplomats, Health Minister Jaafar Allawi said in a statement. Iraq has so far recorded 83 cases of coronavirus, eight deaths, and 24 recoveries.

Allawi, who heads the government’s coronavirus task force, also banned domestic travel between provinces from March 15 to 25 with the exception of emergencies, trade and employees commuting to work.

Big religious gatherings during the Islamic month of Rajab (February 25 – March 24) were also banned.

11:35 GMT – Ethiopia confirms first coronavirus case

Ethiopia has confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus, the country’s public health institute told Reuters news agency.

Takele Uma Banti, the mayor of the capital Addis Ababa, tweeted that a Japanese citizen was the person affected.

“We should avoid meetings and hand contacts,” the mayor wrote on Twitter.

11:20 GMT – China sends medical supplies, experts to help Italy

A team of nine Chinese medical staff arrived with some 30 tonnes of equipment on a flight organised by the Red Cross Society of China.

“In this moment of great stress, of great difficulty, we are relieved to have this arrival of supplies. It is true that it will help only temporarily, but it is still important,” said the head of the Italian Red Cross, Francesco Rocca.

“We have a desperate need for these masks right now. We need respirators that the Red Cross will donate to the government. This is for sure a really important donation for our country,” Rocca said.

11:17 GMT – Czech Republic bans foreign travellers from March 16

The Czech government said it would ban all foreign travellers from entering and all Czechs from leaving the country, which has 117 confirmed cases of the virus, as of March 16.

“As of midnight Sunday-Monday, we ban all foreigners from entering the Czech Republic and, at the same time, all Czech citizens from leaving the Czech territory,” Interior Minister Jan Hamacek told reporters.

11:03 GMT – Iran: Coronavirus cases reach 11,364, death toll 514

Iran says it has registered 85 more coronavirus deaths in the country, bringing the total to 514. Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases reached 11,364.

10:50 GMT – Lebanon banks to close to sanitise against coronavirus

Lebanon’s banks will close on Saturday to take steps to sanitise branches and prevent the spread of coronavirus, the country’s banking association said in a statement on Friday.

Lebanon has so far recorded 77 cases of coronavirus and three deaths, according to the health ministry.

10:40 GMT – Trump: Testing will soon happen on ‘very large scale’

United States President Donald Trump said coronavirus testing in the US will soon happen on a large scale, but did not provide any details on how that would be accomplished.

“The changes have been made and testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis. All Red Tape has been cut, ready to go!” he wrote in a tweet.

FILE PHOTO: Kenyan nurses wear protective gear during a demonstration of preparations for any potential coronavirus cases at the Mbagathi Hospital, isolation centre for the disease, in Nairobi, Kenya
Kenyan nurses in protective gear at the Mbagathi Hospital in Nairobi [Njeri Mwangi/Reuters]

10:38 GMT – Pasta, toilet paper and flour sold out in some London supermarkets

An increasing number of supermarket shelves in London were empty as people rushed to buy pasta, toilet paper, flour and frozen food after the government ordered people with coronavirus to isolate themselves.

British supermarket bosses have urged people not to panic and said they can keep shelves stocked, but anecdotal evidence from across London indicates many people are hoarding basics.

10:35 GMT – Ukraine to block entry in rebel-held areas

Ukraine’s government decided to ban citizens registered in the separatist-held territory in the eastern Donbass region from entering government-controlled areas.

The authorities in Kyiv are also gearing up to close border checkpoints with countries bordering the European Union in the west, but have not yet specified how many would be closed or when the closures would happen.

The decisions need the final approval from the national security and defence council, which is chaired by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and will meet later on Friday.

Consumers shop in near empty aisles of a supermarket in London on March 13, 2020, as consumers worry about product shortages, leading to the stockpiling of household products due to the outbreak of th
Consumers shop in the near-empty aisles of a supermarket in London in the United Kingdom [Justin Tallis/AFP]

10:17 GMT – Champions League, Europa League matches postponed

All Champions League and Europa League matches scheduled for next week have been postponed, European football’s governing body announced.

“This includes the remaining UEFA Champions League, Round of 16 second leg matches scheduled on 17 and 18 March 2020; all UEFA Europa League, Round of 16 second leg matches scheduled on 19 March 2020; all UEFA Youth League, quarter-final matches scheduled on 17 and 18 March 2020,” the UEFA said in a statement posted on its website.

“Further decisions on when these matches take place will be communicated in due course.”

Read which other sports events have been affected by the coronavirus.

10:08 GMT – Start of IPL cricket tournament postponed

The start of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament has been postponed until April 15 as a precautionary measure against the spread of coronavirus, the Indian cricket board said.

10:05 GMT – Everton football players self-isolate

Everton’s first-team squad and coaching staff are self-isolating after a player reported symptoms of COVID-19, the Premier League club said, without naming the player.

“Everton Football Club can confirm that, as a precautionary measure, its entire first-team squad and coaching staff are undertaking a period of self-isolation following medical advice,” the United Kingdom-based club said in a statement.

09:42 GMT – Airline SAS to cut, suspend US flights

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) said it would cut flights to some United States destinations and suspend traffic to others in the wake of new US travel restrictions over the coronavirus starting on March 14.

From March 14 onward, SAS will operate a reduced schedule on routes between Copenhagen and Chicago and New York and between Stockholm and New York, it said.

Flights between Copenhagen and San Francisco will operate according to schedule until March 17 and the airline’s flights to other US destinations will be suspended from March 15 to 31.

A store vendor takes photos of a member of Sofia's Municipality disinfecting the outside of her store in the biggest market for Chinese goods in Sofia, Bulgaria to prevent the spread of the COVID-19,
A member of Sofia’s municipality disinfecting the market for Chinese goods in Sofia, Bulgaria [Nikolay Doychinov/AFP]

09:40 GMT – Bulgaria declares state of emergency over coronavirus

The Bulgarian parliament voted unanimously to declare a state of emergency until April 13 to contain the spread of coronavirus after the number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 23.

The state of emergency will allow for travel bans to and from countries with large coronavirus outbreaks and for the closing of schools and universities. It will also permit police to intervene when imposed isolation of infected people is not observed.

The foreign ministry banned travel to Iran and advised Bulgarians to cancel any non-urgent travel to Spain and South Korea.

09:34 GMT – Chelsea’s Hudson-Odoi says he recovered

“I had the virus for the last couple of days, which I’ve recovered from,” Chelsea football forward Callum Hudson-Odoi said in a video message out on Twitter.

Hudson-Odoi, 19, displayed cold symptoms on Monday morning and has stayed away from the club since then. His test result was returned on Thursday night.

The English Premier League club said: “Chelsea personnel who had recent close contact with the player in the men’s team building will now self-isolate in line with Government health guidelines. These will include initially the full men’s team squad, coaching staff and a number of backroom staff.”

Chelsea said Hudson-Odoi was “doing well and looking forward to returning to the training ground as soon as it is possible”.

Callum Hudson-Odoi

@Calteck10

Thank you for all your good wishes, as I said in the video I’m feeling good and hope to see you all soon!!🙏🏾❤️

Embedded video

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09:25 GMT – Spain: Catalonia puts four towns under quarantine

Four towns in Spain’s northeastern autonomous region of Catalonia have been put under quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more here.

09:20 GMT – Lithuania to close all schools, universities, kindergartens

Lithuania’s government said it will close all schools, universities and kindergartens in the country for two weeks to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

09:16 GMT – Tokyo to postpone opening ceremony of Olympic aquatics centre

The Tokyo metropolitan government said it would postpone the opening ceremony of the Olympic aquatics centre due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The opening ceremony had been planned for March 22, Tokyo said in a statement.

09:05 GMT – Cases rise in the Netherlands to 614

Dutch health authorities say the confirmed cases of the coronavirus rose to 614 in the Netherlands.

The country’s Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his government will introduce new measures to trace the new coronavirus cases.

08:55 GMT – Kazakhstan confirms first coronavirus cases

Two Kazakh citizens have tested positive for coronavirus after returning from Germany, Healthcare Minister Yelzhan Birtanov said, the first cases of the disease in the Central Asian country.

The patients are staying in a specialised hospital in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city, he told a briefing.

Customers wearing protective masks visit a local food market, also known as bazaar, in Almaty, Kazakhstan March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
Customers wearing protective masks visit a local food market in Almaty, Kazakhstan  [Pavel Mikheyev/Reuters]

08:50 GMT – Armenia shuts educational institutions until March 23

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Armenia would shut educational institutions immediately over coronavirus fears until March 23.

Armenia has recorded six cases of coronavirus, according to the health ministry, but 30 people who have been quarantined since March 1 will be tested again for the virus.

08:45 GMT – Wild ride: Markets recoup some losses after virus-driven rout

Asian financial markets slumped on Friday after Wall Street posted its worst single-day crash since 1987, but quickly recouped losses as policymakers ramped up efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak and its economic effects.

Read more here.

08:31 GMT – How Italy, South Korea differ in tackling coronavirus outbreak

In Italy, millions are locked down and more than 1,000 people have died from the coronavirus.

But in South Korea, which was hit by the disease at about the same time, only a few thousand are quarantined and 67 people died.

Read more here.

08:25 GMT – Czech Republic widens quarantine

The Czech government will require people returning from all high-risk countries to quarantine themselves, widening a requirement so far only applied to those returning from Italy, Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said on Twitter.

The list named 15 high-risk countries including neighbouring Germany and Austria but also the United States and Japan.

Masked shoppers stand near the Apple logo in Beijing, China. Tech giant Apple has reopened some stores in China but it’s stock value has fallen two days in a row as worries grow that the viral outbrea
Masked shoppers stand near the Apple logo in Beijing, China [Ng Han Guan/AP]

08:10 GMT – Apple reopens all its branded stores in China

Apple Inc has reopened all 42 of its branded stores in China, more than a month after they were shut due to fears over the coronavirus outbreak, the iPhone maker’s Chinese website showed.

Apple’s China website has listed the opening times for all stores, which vary from 10am to 11am local time. The website had previously carried an advisory saying not all stores were open.

08:05 GMT – Indonesia records second death

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo says the country registered its second coronavirus-related death.

07:35 GMT – Kenya confirms first case

Kenya registered its first confirmed case of the new coronavirus, Minister of Health Mutahi Kagwe says.

The patient, who was diagnosed on the night of March 12, had travelled back to Kenya from the United States via London, Kagwe told a news conference.

07:15 GMT

Hello, I am Tamila Varshalomidze in Doha. Taking over from my colleague, I will be updating you on the coronavirus for the next few hours.

A woman walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 and New York Dow index at a securities firm in Tokyo Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
An electronic stock board showing Japan’s Nikkei 225 and the New York Dow index in Tokyo [Eugene Hoshiko/AP]

07:10 GMT – Australian home affairs minister tests positive

Peter Dutton, Australia’s home affairs minister, said he entered hospital quarantine after testing positive for the new coronavirus.

“This morning I woke up with a temperature and sore throat,” said the minister, a key architect of Australia’s controversial immigration laws.

“It is the policy of Queensland Health that anyone who tests positive is to be admitted into hospital and I have complied with their advice.”

06:30 GMT – China spokesman suggests coronavirus originated from US

Zhao Lijian, a top spokesman of the Chinese government and senior foreign ministry official, posted on social media on Friday a report published in a Canada-based conspiracy website suggesting that the coronavirus originated from the US.

“… This is so astonishing that it changed many things I used to believe in. Please retweet to let more people know about it,” Zhao wrote on Twitter.

His post accompanied an article with the headline: A shocking update. Did The Virus Originate in the US?

Earlier, Zhao also posted a video of the US Congress hearing, suggesting that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was “caught on the spot” saying that “patient zero” had been in the US.

05:57 GMT – Turkey confirms second coronavirus case

Turkey’s health minister has announced the country’s second case of the coronavirus, which is linked to the first case.

“He is from the immediate circle of our first patient, who was followed up as soon as the diagnosis was made,” Fahrettin Koca wrote on Twitter on Friday.

“We have taken the necessary measures to keep the possible spread of the virus within these limits. We will overcome this problem together,” he added.

04:59 GMT – Indonesia to ban face-mask exports

Indonesia will temporarily ban the export of face masks to safeguard domestic supply amid the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters news agency reported on Friday.

“We will issue a temporary export ban for mask products to meet demand from domestic industries and consumers,” Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto told reporters.

The ban will be in place until the government is satisfied local supply is adequate, he said.

Face mask prices have jumped in some parts of Indonesia as buyers stock up on protective supplies such as masks and hand sanitisers due to worries about the coronavirus.

There are an estimated 34 cases in Indonesia, with one death and two recoveries.

04:20 GMT China’s first coronavirus case traced back to November 17

The South China Morning Post reported that the first case of someone in China suffering from the coronavirus was traced back to November 17.

The Hong Kong-based newspaper cited government data from China.

The exclusive report said that a 55-year-old man from Hubei Province may have been the first person to have contracted the deadly disease in mid-November last year.

South Korea
South Korea reported 177 fully recovered patients were released on Thursday, and more than 110 new cases [Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]

03:35 GMT – South Korea sees more virus patients released than new infections

South Korea – which once witnessed the largest coronavirus outbreak outside China – saw its newly recovered patients exceed fresh infections for the first time on Friday, as it reported its lowest number of new cases in three weeks.

The country confirmed 110 new cases on Thursday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said, taking the total to 7,979.

But 177 fully recovered patients were released the same day, it added.

South Korea has an advanced medical system widely available to all, and has embarked on a huge coronavirus testing drive.

03:35 GMT – F1 cancels season-opening Australian Grand Prix

As thousands of fans queued to get into the Australian Grand Prix for the first Formula One weekend of the season, the teams and drivers were packing up to leave.

Concern over the coronavirus left organisers with little choice on Friday but to cancel the season-opening race, particularly after McLaren’s withdrawal because a team member tested positive for the COVID-19 illness and following heavy criticism from six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Principals of nine F1 teams and organisers met overnight and “concluded with a majority view of the teams that the race should not go ahead,” a joint statement by motorsport’s governing body, the organisers and F1 said.

China - coronavirus
Chinese labourers work at a construction site in China’s Guizhou province on Wednesday [China Daily via Reuters]

03:19 GMT – Most of larger Chinese firms outside Hubei resume work

China’s Vice Industry Minister Xin Guobin said on Friday the work resumption rate outside of Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, is about 60 percent for small and medium firms and more than 95 percent for larger firms.

Xin, speaking to reporters at a State Council briefing, said China will coordinate with other countries to push forward on business resumption even as the pandemic stokes uncertainty about the return to normalcy.

The country is trying to get back to work after imposing strict restrictions on transport and people to slow the spread of infections.

03:17 GMT – Hong Kong records fourth coronavirus death

An 80-year old man became the fourth patient in Hong Kong to die due to the coronavirus, Reuters reported on Friday, quoting a Nethersole Eastern Hospital spokeswoman.

Hong Kong has so far confirmed around 130 coronavirus cases.

02:57 GMT – Filipino diplomat first known coronavirus case at UN in New York

A female diplomat from the Philippines mission to the United Nations tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, according to a note sent to UN missions, making her the first known case at the world body’s New York headquarters, Reuters reported on Friday.

“As of today, the Philippine Mission is in lockdown, and all personnel are instructed to self-quarantine and to seek medical attention should they develop the symptoms. We are assuming that all of us have been infected,” wrote Philippines acting UN Ambassador Kira Azucena in a message seen by Reuters.

According to the online UN directory of diplomatic staff, there are about 12 diplomats at the Filipino mission, which is on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin posted on Twitter that the diplomat was young, spritely and “doing well,” adding that she had recently returned from Florida.

Teddy Locsin Jr.

@teddyboylocsin

The infected is doing well; she’s young, spritely, smart and taking some doctor prescribed meds. Thank you. I just talked to Kira. https://twitter.com/michellenichols/status/1238260517971656704 

Michelle Nichols

@michellenichols

A diplomat from #Philippines #UN mission tested positive for #coronavirus on Thursday, the acting amb said in message to other #UN missions. @PHMissionNY – about 12 diplomats – is on lockdown.

“We are assuming that all of us have been infected,” acting Amb Kira Azucena wrote.

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02:52 GMT – China coronavirus deaths reach 3,176, infections hit 80,813

China’s National Health Commission reported on Friday at least seven new coronavirus deaths as of the end of Thursday, pushing the total number nationwide to 3,176.

Beijing also reported at least eight new confirmed cases during the same period, pushing the total number of cases to 80,813.

At least 68,000 patients have reportedly recovered from the infection.

01:54 GMT Friday – Canadian PM Trudeau’s wife positive of coronavirus

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie, has tested positive for the new coronavirus, according to the prime minister’s office.

Trudeau’s office had earlier said that the Canadian first lady returned from a speaking engagement in Britain and had mild flu-like symptoms, including a low fever, late on Wednesday night.

The prime minister is quarantining himself at home.

Read more here.

Cameron Ahmad

@CameronAhmad

Personal message from Sophie.

View image on Twitter
210 people are talking about this

01:37 GMT Friday – Japan says Olympics on track despite Trump’s suggestion to postpone

Japan is on track to hold the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as planned, top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said on Friday, after US President Donald Trump suggested a possible delay of a year.

Suga did not confirm or deny whether Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed Trump’s comments in a phone call earlier on Friday.

The two leaders spoke for about 50 minutes about the coronavirus pandemic, among other topics, Suga said.

A senior government spokesman is set to brief reporters on the talks shortly.

“They did not talk about travel restrictions between Japan and the United States while I was present,” he said, adding he left the talks before they ended.

00:27 GMT Friday – Saudi Arabia detects 17 cases of coronavirus, total at 62

Coronavirus - Saudi
At least 11 of the new cases of coronavirus infections in Saudi Arabia involve Egyptian citizens [File: Amr Nabil/AP]

Saudi Arabia detected 17 new cases of coronavirus, 11 of whom were Egyptians, state news agency (SPA) said on Friday.

This brings the total number of cases detected in the kingdom to 62, SPA added.

23:55 GMT Thursday – Major Mexican university to suspend classes until further notice

Mexico’s Tecnologico de Monterrey university said on Thursday it would suspend all academic events and classes at its campuses from next week until further notice to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The university, one of the most important in Mexico, said in a statement the suspension would take effect from March 17. It would review the measures after the week of the “Semana Santa” Easter holidays, which ends on April 12, the university added.

Separately, Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), said it would be tightening preventative measures against the spread of coronavirus, but was not suspending classes yet.

22:00 GMT Thursday – Portugal orders schools, nightclubs shut due to coronavirus

On Thursday, Portugal’s government ordered the shutdown of all schools nationwide starting on Monday to contain the coronavirus epidemic until further evaluation on April 9, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a televised address.

He also said cruise ship passengers would not be allowed to disembark, except for those residing in Portugal. Nightclubs in the country will be shut, and there will be capacity restrictions on entry to shopping malls and restaurants.

21:55 GMT Thursday – Belgian government says schools, restaurants, clubs to close due to coronavirus

Belgium’s government ordered schools, cafes, restaurants and some shops to close due to the coronavirus, following decisions by France and other European countries to limit all but essential activities.

The measures take effect from Friday at midnight central European time and run until April 3, although schools are set to be shut for five weeks, including during the Easter holidays, Belgium’s caretaker Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes told a news conference.

“There is no lockdown,” Wilmes told reporters, stressing that supermarkets and pharmacies would remain open and other shops would only be required to close on weekends. “We want to avoid the Italian situation and avoid lockdowns.”

I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur.

You can read all the updates from yesterday (March 12) here.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Trump declares national emergency as coronavirus crisis deepens

The declaration comes amid criticism over the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

United States President Donald Trump speaks at a news conference about the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic in the Rose Garden at the White House on March 13, 2020 in Washington, DC [Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP]
United States President Donald Trump speaks at a news conference about the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic in the Rose Garden at the White House on March 13, 2020 in Washington, DC [Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP]

As the coronavirus pandemic tore deeper into the fabric of American public life, United States President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday to provide more money to fight a pandemic that has killed 41 people in the US.

“I am officially declaring a national emergency,” he said from the White House’s Rose Garden.

More:

The declaration of a national emergency, a rarely used presidential power, allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist state and local governments and coordinate the nation’s response to the crisis.

Trump said the declaration would free up to $50bn for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak.

Trump said he was also giving Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar emergency authorities to waive federal regulations and laws to give doctors and hospitals “flexibility” in treating patients.

The move follows an unprecedented cascade of shutdowns this week, from sports events to museums and workplaces, that is aimed at limiting large public gatherings to help slow the fast-spreading virus.

From lack of testing to an initial downplaying of the threat, the Trump administration has faced harsh criticism over its response to virus.

On Friday, Trump announced that the US will “vastly increase” its testing capacity.

Among the steps being taken was a public-private partnership to create drive-through testing options. Trump, however, said that US authorities do not want people to get a coronavirus test if they do not need it.

“It’s totally unnecessary,” Trump said. He added, “This will pass.”

Trump said the administration planned to announce on Sunday night further details of the testing options, including a screening website where individuals could go to see if they should be tested and how to get tested.

US Coronavirus
Dr Debbie Birx, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, speaks as US President Donald Trump and other members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force listen at a news conference on COVID-19 [Saul Loeb/AFP]

New York had already said it would begin drive-through testing for coronavirus in New Rochelle, a suburb of New York City where authorities have set up a one-mile (1.6km) “containment zone” around an infection hot spot.

“It’s safer to keep them in their car, it’s less exposure overall,” Governor Andrew Cuomo told a news conference on Friday.

Coronavirus has hit New York, California and Washington states particularly hard, but all but a few states have announced cases of the respiratory illness.

Death toll surpasses 41

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday reported 1,678 US cases of coronavirus, an increase of 414 from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by five to 41. The CDC tally includes 49 cases among people repatriated from Japan and Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began. It has since spread to more than 130 countries and territories, infecting over 138,000 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Across the US, shoppers preparing to hunker down at home hit stores in droves to stockpile supplies of food and other essentials such as toilet paper, cookies, pasta and paper towels as coronavirus concerns stoked fears of shortages.

As Trump made the emergency declaration, a congressional aid package to limit the economic damage of the crisis hung in the balance.

Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, had previously said they were close to an agreement after negotiating through the night with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s point person on the issue.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday that the House would approve its coronavirus aid package, imploring the Trump administration and congressional Republicans to “put families first” by backing the effort to provide Americans with relief.

The House Democratic leader spoke from the speaker’s balcony at the Capitol ahead of Trump’s news conference at the White House, as the power centres of Washington, DC, were shuttered to visitors.

“Our nation, our great nation has faced crisis before,” Pelosi said. “And every time, thanks to the courage and optimism of the American people, we have prevailed. Now, working together, we will once again prevail.”

Republicans said they were waiting for the president to give his approval and had yet to commit. Without their support, the measure could stall in the Senate.

Trump said on Friday that he did not think the Democrats were giving enough as part of its package.

Mnuchin has proposed a variety of tax breaks, while Democrats called for expanding the safety net to help those who may lose work as schools close, sports arenas sit empty and airlines cancel flights.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

‘Repeated violations’: Iraqi president condemns US air strikes

Iraqi army also denounces overnight attacks killing six, including a civilian, and calls them violation of sovereignty.

'Repeated violations': Iraqi president condemns US air strikes
An Iraqi civilian airport under construction in Karbala after being hit in a US air raid [Alaa al-Marjani/Reuters]

Iraq has condemned overnight US air strikes on Friday, with its military saying they killed six people and describing them as violation of sovereignty and a targeted aggression against the nation’s regular armed forces.

President Barham Salih said such “repeated violations” could cause Iraq to unravel into a failed state and revive the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.

More:

Iraq’s security problems will be solved by supporting its government, not turning it into a battlefield for a proxy war, Salih said, warning that ISIL might seize on any chaos.

“The repeated violations the state is being subjected to are a dangerous and deliberate weakening of its abilities especially at a time when Iraq faces unprecedented challenges on political, economic, financial, security, and health fronts,” he said.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s foreign minister summoned the ambassadors of the United States and United Kingdom over the deadly overnight air raids against Iraqi military positions.

“The foreign minister held an emergency meeting in which the ministry’s undersecretaries, advisors and official spokesman discussed the measures regarding the recent American aggression. He has ordered the summoning of the United States and British ambassadors to Baghdad,” a spokesman said in a statement.

It came after Iraq’s military said at least one civilian and five security personnel were killed in the US raids, which it denounced as a violation of sovereignty and a targeted aggression against Iraq’s armed forces.

The civilian killed in the overnight attack was a cook working at an airport under construction in Karbala, the military said in a statement. The death toll included three soldiers and two policemen, while four soldiers, two policemen, one civilian and five militiamen were wounded, it said.

Earlier, the Pentagon said the US conducted “defensive precision strikes” against the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah facilities across Iraq, in an attack that was in response to an earlier rocket barrage that killed two US troops and one British soldier.

A US official told The Associated Press news agency that the raids were a joint operation with the British.

Reporting from Baghdad, Al Jazeera’s Simona Foltyn said there had been “widespread condemnation” of the attacks that targeted different southern positions belonging to the Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella organisation of several armed militias, with the latest incident likely to once again ignite calls in Iraq for the expulsion of US troops.

Citing the military’s statement, Foltyn said the “fatalities suggest that these air strikes were not as precise as the US said that they were, and this is rather embarrassing for the US because the Iraqi army and police are its partners under the coalition to fight ISIL.

“Essentially, rather than deterring Kataib Hezbollah and other Iranian-linked groups from conducting further attacks on US servicemen, the US in fact ended up further rupturing the relationship between its Iraqi partners and its presence here in Iraq.”

Members of Iraqi security forces check the damages a civilian airport under construction which, according to Iraqi religious authorities, was hit by a U.S. air strike, in the holy Shi'ite city of Kerb
Members of Iraqi security forces inspect the damage at the airport hit by US air strikes in Karbala [Alaa al-Marjani/Reuters]

US President Donald Trump gave the Pentagon the authority to respond to Wednesday’s attack, responsibility for which has not been claimed, again raising tensions with neighbouring Iran after the two countries came to the brink of war earlier this year.

Washington had blamed Kataib Hezbollah for an attack in December that killed a US contractor, leading to a cycle of tit-for-tat confrontations that culminated in the January 3 US assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on January 3. Five days later, a retaliatory Iranian missile attack on two bases in Iraq housing US troops left more than 100 US troops with brain injuries but caused no fatalities.

Iran on Friday warned US President Donald Trump against taking “dangerous actions” after the overnight air raids.

“The United States cannot blame others … for the consequences of its illegal presence in Iraq and the nation’s reaction to the assassination and killing of Iraqi commanders and fighters,” foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.

“Instead of dangerous actions and baseless accusations, Mr Trump should reconsider the presence and behaviour of his troops in the area,” he added.

The Pentagon said late on Thursday that its “strikes” had targeted Kataib Hezbollah that housed weapons used to target US and coalition troops,” it said.

A worker checks the damages at a civilian airport under construction which, according to Iraqi religious authorities, was hit by a U.S. air strike, in the holy Shi'ite city of Kerbala, Iraq March 13,
Damage at the civilian airport under construction hit by US air strikes in Kerbala [Alaa al-Marjani/Reuters]

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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