The New Zealand opposition party has suspended all election campaigning amidst the coronavirus crisis, saying the priority was now on supporting and working with the government in emergency efforts to clamp down on the spread of the virus.

“I have offered the Prime Minister my full support during this crisis, providing they move expeditiously enough. We will work in a supportive and constructive way in the interests of New Zealanders,” said National Party leader Simon Bridges in a statement.

“I have also offered the Government the services of our MPs and staff to assist where we can.

“We want to do all we can to protect the lives and livelihoods of New Zealanders.”

New Zealand National Party leader Simon Bridges.

New Zealand National Party leader Simon Bridges. Photograph: Grant Maiden/The Guardian

Bridges said he had been “inundated” with calls from doctors, scientists and health professionals, and strongly believed the country needed to be moved to alert level 4 – a total shutdown, as seen in Italy, France and Spain. Bridges had expressed this message to prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

“We won’t regret moving quickly to stop this virus spreading. We may have regrets if we don’t.

“We will support the Government where we can. But we won’t always agree and we will continue to let the Government know when we don’t.

“The Opposition will continue to play an important role to ensure the best decisions are being made in the interests of all New Zealanders. We won’t be campaigning for the foreseeable future, however.”

Here is the latest from the US now (thanks to our colleagues at the helm of the US live blog, which has now closed):

  • The number of Covid-19 cases in the US has now gone past 33,000, with 417 deaths.
  • New York is a hotspot for the virus, accounting for 5% of cases worldwide.
  • Rand Paul has become the first US senator to test positive for Covid-19.
  • The national guard have been deployed to New York, Washington and California to help with the outbreak in those states.
  • Democrats have blocked an economic stimulus package, claiming it favored big business over the rights of workers.

Updated
at 12.28am GMT

Jack Ma, the founder of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, has sent more than six million medical items to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The supplies will be distributed to African countries in need of supplies to battle the spreading Covid-19 pandemic, AP reports.

An Ethiopian Airlines cargo flight from Guangzhou, China arrived with 5.4 million face masks, 1.08 million testing kits, 40,000 sets of protective clothing and 60,000 protective face shields, according to Ethiopian officials and the Jack Ma Foundation.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last week pledged to distribute the supplies to other countries in Africa. Ma has sent similar shipments of medical supplies to countries in Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America.

Ethiopian national coordinator Dr Shumete Gizaw, center-right, hands over a box of medical supplies to Minister of Health Dr Lia Tadesse, center-left, after a cargo flight containing over six million medical items arrived in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Sunday, March 22, 2020 from China.

Ethiopian national coordinator Dr Shumete Gizaw, center-right, hands over a box of medical supplies to Minister of Health Dr Lia Tadesse, center-left, after a cargo flight containing over six million medical items arrived in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Sunday, March 22, 2020 from China. Photograph: Mulugeta Ayene/AP

Japanese prime minister says postponing Tokyo Olympics could become an option

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that postponing the Tokyo Olympic Games may become an option if holding the event in “complete form” became impossible.

Abe also told parliament that cancelling the Games was not an option.

On Saturday, crowds gathered to see the Olympic flame in Tokyo, despite coronavirus concerns.

People gather to take a look at Olympic flame on display in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture, north of Tokyo Saturday, March 21, 2020.

People gather to take a look at Olympic flame on display in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture, north of Tokyo Saturday, March 21, 2020. Photograph: 山本毅/AP

Updated
at 12.19am GMT

In New Zealand, the director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there were 36 new cases of coronavirus registered by 8am this morning, bringing the country’s total to 102 cases.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern will hold a press conference in 30 minutes and reveal more about the nation’s alert level.

Dr Bloomfield hinted the country may move up a level, as two cases of the virus had not been ruled out as community transmission. There are four alert levels in New Zealand and the country is currently at level 2 – containing the virus. Level four would mean the entire country shut down, except for health and essential services.

“Of the cases today over half are directly related to overseas travel, most of the remainder are close contacts of a previously confirmed case or associated with an event where there were confirmed cases such as the Queenstown World Hereford Cattle conference,” Dr Bloomfield said.

“More than 1,100 laboratory tests were carried out yesterday, bringing the total number of completed tests to over 7400.”

“Most of our cases are still from people who have travelled to NZ from overseas.”

The Australian market plunged more than 8% on Monday morning amid uncertainty over the effects of a shutdown of hospitality and entertainment operators announced by prime minister Scott Morrison on Sunday night.

Monday’s losses are on top of more than a month of coronavirus-inspired selling that has already cut the value of Australian shares by a third.

Before the market opened, gambling company Tabcorp said its totalisator outlets and on-course betting, both of which are to be shut, accounted for about 28% of its revenue.

With this money now set to be ripped away, the company said it withdrew its previous profit guidance.

A raft of companies temporarily halted trade in their shares to give them time to respond to the new restrictions, including Star Entertainment, which operates Sydney’s casino, and Retail Food Group, which is the franchisor of fast food outlets including Gloria Jean’s coffee shops and pizza joints Pizza Capers and Crust.

Village Roadshow said it was closing Gold Coast theme parks Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World, Wet’n’Wild and Paradise Country, but Sea World would remain open because it has a hotel.

Airline Virgin Australia, which along with rival Qantas has already slashed flights as travel restrictions bite, said it “expects a material reduction in its domestic capacity as a result” of new travel bans announced by state and federal authorities over the weekend.

In Australia the following types of businesses will all be forcibly closed within the next hour, the federal government has announced:

  • Pubs, registered and licensed clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs

Restaurants and cafes will only be able to serve takeaway.

Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies).

A few minutes ago, Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed the country, saying “Australians would be living with this virus for at least the next six months. It could be longer.”

There is no short-term solution to this. We have to steel ourselves for the next six months and work together to slow the spread in order to save lives, to protect the elderly and vulnerableAustralians.

On social media, people are posting pictures of the queues are forming at Centrelink, the national body that delivers social security services and other payments:

Patrick O’Leary
(@PadYeo)

Centrelink Canberra. Never seen this before. Spare a thought for our fellow Aussies no matter the background. Starting to be reminiscent of my dad’s stories of queues in the Great Depression. Let’s stick together Australia. Let’s run this place as if everyone matters. #ForAllOfUs pic.twitter.com/IL8IW9E7Eq


March 22, 2020

Hannah Sinclair
(@hansinclair9)

The line to Centrelink Bondi Junction. It wraps around almost every corner of the block. @9NewsSyd #COVID19Aus #centrelink pic.twitter.com/tyCsuxwb6R


March 22, 2020

Coronavirus live news: One in three Americans must stay home as Germany bans meetings of more than two | World news 1Melanie Tait
(@MelanieTait)

People queueing around the block for Marrickville Centrelink. Goes without saying this hasn’t been seen before 💔 pic.twitter.com/pzsreUYVnS


March 22, 2020

Updated
at 12.11am GMT

Nearly one in three Americans under orders to stay home

Nearly one in three Americans was under orders on Sunday to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as Ohio, Louisiana and Delaware became the latest states to enact broad restrictions, Reuters reports.

Paul Habans Charter School hands out supplies including food, books and computers to students and the community as Louisiana schools close for one month due to the spread of coronavirus on March 17, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Paul Habans Charter School hands out supplies including food, books and computers to students and the community as Louisiana schools close for one month due to the spread of coronavirus on March 17, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photograph: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The three states join New York, California, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey, home to 101 million Americans combined, as cases nationwide neared 34,000, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.

“Every piece of evidence that I can lay my hands on indicates that we’re at an absolutely crucial time in this war and what we do now will make all the difference in the world,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. “What we do now will slow this invader. It will slow this invader so our healthcare system … will have time to treat casualties.”

Ohio has 351 cases and three deaths, while Louisiana has 837 cases and 20 deaths, several in a senior-care facility. Louisiana has the third highest number of cases per capita and saw a 10-fold increase in cases in the past week, Governor John Bel Edwards said.

Ohio’s order will go into effect at midnight EDT on Monday and stay in effect until April 6. Louisiana’s order goes into effect at 5 p.m. CDT on Monday and lasts through April 12. Delaware’s order starts at 8 a.m. EDT on Tuesday.

In Kentucky, non-essential businesses must close by 8 p.m. EDT on Monday but authorities stopped short of ordering residents to stay home.

Summary

Hi, this Helen Sullivan. I’ll bringing you key developments in the coronavirus pandemic for the next few hours, as we navigate a crisis that has seen around one billion people worldwide confined to their homes.

As the virus continues to spread, governments are introducing stricter isolation measures and enforcement procedures, as well as financial plans in an attempt weaken its economic impact.

  • A European clinical trial involving some 3,200 people has been launched to test four possible experimental coronavirus treatments.
  • First cases of the virus have been confirmed in Syria, as well as Grenada and Mozambique.
  • About 1.5 million UK residents who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus will be contacted by the NHS and advised to stay at home for 12 weeks.
  • There have been 48 new deaths in the UK and 112 in France.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel has gone into quarantine after a doctor who gave her a vaccine tests positive for coronavirus.
  • Germany has banned meetings of over two people, they are about work on slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
  • 23 people have died and 83 have been left injured in overnight prison riots in Bogota as inmates demanded better protection against contamination.
  • The death toll in the northern region of Lombardy rose by around 360 in a day to more than 3,450. The area has borne the brunt of Italy’s virus outbreak.
  • Spain will ask parliament to extend the state of emergency for another 15 days until April 11 a state of emergency it imposed this month to try to curb the spread of the virus.
  • Dubai carrier Emirates reversed a previous announcement suspending all passenger flights, saying it is going to continue flying to 13 destinations, including the the U.S., the UK, Japan, Australia and Canada.





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