Coronavirus updates, March 17: Latest news on the coronavirus outbreak from Pakistan and around the world

PM Imran says government mulled shutting down cities but Pakistan's coronavirus situation is not as severe at the moment

Web Desk

KARACHI / LAHORE / ISLAMABAD / PESHAWAR / QUETTA: The nationwide tally of COVID-19 cases has risen to 237 after new patients were reported from Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Tuesday.

The province-wide break up of cases as of 6:45pm is as follows:

• Sindh: 172
• Punjab: 26
• Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 16
• Balochistan: 16
• Islamabad Capital Territory: 4
• Gilgit-Baltistan: 3

Globally, 162 countries have been affected, more than 7,000 people have died and more than 184,000 infected by the disease as it spreads rapidly to new territories.

The epicentre of the outbreak has now shifted to Europe, which is recording a rapid rise in new cases every day.

Read on for the latest updates from Pakistan and around the world.

Disclaimer: There may be some discrepancy in the number of confirmed cases reported at the country level due to differences in figures quoted by federal and provincial authorities.

Geo News is constantly gathering fresh information from concerned authorities and striving to keep our readers up to date with the most accurate information available.

Orange: All general updates coming in from Pakistan

Red: All reports on new cases in Pakistan


Updates for March 18 will continue here.

11:00pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Carrefour to remain operational

With the Sindh government's announcement for the closure of shopping malls and restaurants leaving people confused over whether supermarkets will remain open, Carrefour has assured customers it will continue to operate in both Lucky One and Dolmen Mall.

10:39pm — Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — Saudi halts prayers in mosques

Saudi Arabia has suspended prayers inside all but the holiest two mosques as the kingdom steps up efforts to contain the new coronavirus, AFP reported, citing state media.

Mosques will be temporarily shut for the five daily prayers as well as the weekly Friday prayers, the official Saudi Press Agency said, citing the council of senior scholars — the kingdom's highest religious body.

It said mosques would continue to issue the ritual call to prayer.

The decision seeks to direct worshippers to pray at home but does not affect prayers in Makkah's Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque in Madina, it added.

Saudi Arabia has reported 171 coronavirus cases, but no deaths so far.

The Arab world's biggest economy has shut down cinemas, malls and restaurants, halted flights and suspended the year-round Umrah pilgrimage in a bid to contain the deadly virus.

09:40pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Sindh orders major hospitals' OPDs shut down

The government on Sindh late Tuesday ordered all major public hospitals to shut down their out-patient departments (OPDs) for the next 15 days, with the decision coming into effect tomorrow (Wednesday).

09:30pm — Islamabad, Pakistan — PM Imran addresses nation over coronavirus pandemic

Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the country's citizens in a recorded televised speech and explains what the coronavirus is and the panic that has followed since February 26, when the first person tested positive in Pakistan.

"We formed the National Security Committee last week when the cases rose to 20," PM Imran said. Italy, he added, had locked down after coronavirus cases, Britain has not done anything till now, and the United States, despite not doing anything at the start, initiated emergency measures.

"We mulled shutting down cities but Pakistan's coronavirus situation is not as severe at the moment," said the premier. "We have poor people [...] we face economic challenges and unemployment."

Referring to the suggestion for lock-downs, he said: "On the one hand, we would save people from coronavirus and on the other, people would die of hunger."

09:21pm — Washington, US — Tech platforms in joint effort to stem virus misinformation

The large US internet platforms have unveiled a joint effort to root out misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, while Facebook announced a $100 million program to aid small firms impacted by the crisis, AFP reported.

A joint statement was issued late Monday by Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, and Reddit, along with Google-owned YouTube and Microsoft-owned LinkedIn. "We are working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts," the joint statement said.

"We're helping millions of people stay connected while also jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world.

Separately Tuesday, Facebook announced $100 million to help small businesses in 30 countries cope with the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

09:02pm — Washington, US — State Dept urges everyone 'to prioritise real facts & cooperation'

Alice G. Wells, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department's Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA), has said that the current atmosphere was "a moment to put aside ideological differences & work together to defeat a global pandemic".

"I urge all people of South and Central Asia, whether leaders of countries, communities, or families, to prioritise real facts & cooperation in response to this shared threat," Wells added.

08:55pm — Peshawar, Pakistan — Wedding hall owners protest closure

The wedding hall association in Peshawar has been protesting the government's orders prohibiting the opening of venues that hold wedding functions.

"The closure of wedding halls is not a solution for the coronavirus," said the participants.

They demanded that the government review its decision. "They did not consult us even once," complained the president of the association, Khalid Ayub.

He said that hundreds had been rendered jobless due to the closure of wedding halls.

08:31pm — Peshawar, Pakistan — KP reports one more case, taking province's total to 16

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health minister, Taimur Khan Jhagra, has said that the province's total has surged to 16 after the emergence of another case.

The latest case has surfaced in Abbottabad. The patient had come from the UK and has been under quarantine at home.

08:21pm — London, UK — UK begins tougher virus action after dire science warning

Britain imposed unprecedented peacetime measures prompted by scientific advice that infections and deaths would spiral without drastic action, AFP reported.

Firms sent staff to work from home and public transport emptied after the government called for an end to "non-essential" social contact and unnecessary travel as confirmed cases climbed to more than 1,500 and deaths rose to 55.

Britons were only to travel abroad if absolutely necessary for the next 30 days, to avoid the risk of being stranded by border closures, airline cancellations and stringent curfews.

Thirty members of Imperial College London's COVID-19 response team concluded in a paper that suppression was "the preferred policy option" to curb the spread of the virus.

It would require "a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members".

"This type of intensive intervention package... will need to be maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more)," the report stated.

They predicted transmission would "quickly rebound if interventions are relaxed", it added.

8:11pm — Copenhagen, Switzerland — WHO calls for 'boldest actions' from all European countries

The World Health Organisation's (WHO) regional office for Europe has said there is a need for bold measures in all European countries, calling the continent the "epicentre" of the new coronavirus pandemic.

"Every country, with no exceptions, needs to take their boldest actions to stop or slow down the virus threat," Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, told a press conference.

"Thinking that 'this does not concern me', is not an option," Kluge said.

Kluge also said that the "good news" was that the region was "alert and on guard," noting that "preparedness-, readiness- and response measures" had been launched in all member states.

On Tuesday the outer borders of the 27-nation European Union and its Schengen passport-free zone closed for 30 days.

Faced with the "defining global health crisis of our time", the WHO on Monday called for testing of every suspected case of the new coronavirus.

08:00pm — Lauanne, Switzerland — Football's Euro 2020 postponed to 2021

The UEFA has postponed the European Championship, due to take place across the continent in June and July this year, until 2021 after holding crisis meetings on Tuesday, European football's governing body has announced.

"The move will help all domestic competitions, currently on hold due to the COVID-19 emergency, to be completed," UEFA said in a statement.

07:32pm — Karachi, Pakistan — CIEs postponed

Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani has announced that all exams under Cambridge International Exams (CIE) for the upcoming May/June session have been postponed.

"CIEs exams scheduled to be held in May/June will be postponed as per decision of meeting held today. Official announcement will come from Cambridge," he wrote on Twitter.

07:23pm — Quetta, Pakistan — Balochistan reports 6 more cases

Six more cases of COVID-19 have surfaced in Balochistan, taking the provincial tally to 16.

The uptick in positive patients was confirmed by the spokesperson to the Balochistan chief minister, Liaquat Shahwani.

The new cases include people who had travelled within the country, he said.

07:12pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Sindh's restaurants, shopping malls to remain closed for 15 days

The Sindh government has announced that restaurants, shopping malls, parks, and Karachi's Sea View will remain closed for the next 15 days.

The decision came after the national tally of confirmed coronavirus cases soared to 230.

According to Senator Murtaza Wahab, Section 144 will be imposed at beaches and parks.

"It is clarified that shopping stores and chemists will remain open," he wrote.

According to Wahab, customers will not be able to dine in but will be able to place orders for delivery and take away.

07:00pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Sindh govt establishes Rs3bn relief fund

Adviser to the Sindh Chief Minister on Law Senator Murtaza Wahab has said that the provincial government has established a relief fund "with seed money of Rs3 billion".

The fund will see contributions by the chief minister, provincial ministers, advisors, special assistants and all PPP lawmakers equivalent to one month's salary.

06:45pm — Lahore, Pakistan — Punjab reports 18 more cases

Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar has confirmed 18 additional cases in Punjab, taking the provincial tally to 26.

The latest count marks a huge surge up from the last tally of 6 earlier in the day.

The chief minister said that test reports of suspected patients had come back positive.

"We are testing all the suspected patients and 736 zaireen quarantined in DG Khan. 1,276 zaireen coming from Taftan will also be quarantined,"  wrote Buzdar.

06:36pm — Islamabad, Pakistan — Outbound travellers to show proof of negative COVID-19 test

Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan has said that beginning March 21, international travellers will be able to obtain a boarding pass upon showing proof of having tested negative for COVID-19.

"We used to screen incoming travellers before. We shall also be screening outgoing travellers now," said the minister, during a press conference in Islamabad.

He also said that the earlier decision to only allow Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad airports to receive international flights was reviewed at the National Security Committee meeting. It was decided that all airports will be allowed to operate international flights with the exception of Turbat and Gwadar.

06:23pm — Lahore, Pakistan — PCB shuts down offices till March 23

The Pakistan Cricket Board has announced it is shutting down its offices till March 23 and will consider reopening them on March 24, after reviewing the situation.

"All staff members have been asked to work from home," said the cricket association.

The PCB said that fumigation of all its offices had already been carried out and will be carried out once more.

In the initial stage of its response in the fight against COVID-19, the PCB said it it is screening all international players and staff members. In the next stage, local players will be tested.

"Foreign players will be able to travel after testing is completed," added the PCB.

Alex Hales denies testing positive for coronavirus

Karachi Kings and England batter Alex Hales has denied having tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), calling circulating reports in this regard as "fake news".

Hales' remarks came after journalist Ajmal Jami on Twitter cited Gulf News as saying that Hales had been tested positive.

The cricketer responded to the tweet, saying: "Stop spreading fake news, [this is ] dangerous behaviour."

Read the full story here.

06:01pm — Quetta, Balochistan — Jam Kamal Khan defends Taftan quarantine measures

In a series of posts on Twitter, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan has defended measures taken by the provincial government for quarantine at the Taftan border.

Responding to a post terming the border point as "the single largest point of entry into Pakistan for the virus", the chief minister said that it must be considered that the quarantine measures taken "may have stopped the virus reaching to millions".

"Quarantine at Taftan restricted and limited people and made all of us know each area's people there," he wrote.

"If set loose when no provinces had any idea and facilitation for quarantine..imagine what could have happened!"

In a subsequent post, while responding to a demand that Taftan be locked up, the chief minister said: "It's not Taftan which has [an] issue. Taftan accommodated and restricted 5,000 people."

"Now all provinces have their people in a controlled manner."

To set the record straight, he also said: "Taftan border was never opened...all zaireen were kept in Pakistan House, checked, unregistered in newly made tents for 5,000 people...none [were] allowed to leave until they had to in 14 days."

'Game of Thrones' actor tests positive for coronavirus

The 'Game of Thrones' actor Kristofer Hivju, who played the role of Tormund, has tested positive for the new coronavirus and is doing well, the Norwegian has said in an Instagram post.

The 41-year-old known for his fiery red hair and beard said he and his family were in self-isolation at home.

"We are in good health — I only have mild symptoms of a cold," he wrote in a message accompanied by a photograph of him with his smiling wife, Gry Molvaer Hivju. "Together we can fight this virus and avert a crisis at our hospitals."

On Monday, Norway said 1,308 cases had been detected and three people have died in the Scandinavian country.

05:30pm — London, UK — Coronavirus to cause global recession, surge in defaults: S&P Global

The sudden economic stop caused by coronavirus containment measures will cause a global recession this year and could see US corporate default rates spike above 10% in the next 12 months, Reuters reported, citing ratings agency S&P Global.

"The sudden economic stop caused by COVID-19 containment measures will lead to a global recession this year," S&P said in a new report.

"These factors will likely result in a surge in defaults, with a default rate on nonfinancial corporates in the US that may rise above 10% and into the high single digits in Europe over the next 12 months."

05:25pm — Washington, US — Trump administration to seek $850bn to stem virus' economic fallout

The Trump administration seeks a $850-billion stimulus package aimed at buffering the economy against fallout from coronavirus, the Washington Post has reported, citing four unnamed officials familiar with the plan.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin planned to discuss the request with Senate Republicans on Tuesday, it reported, adding that the package aimed to use payroll taxes or other mechanisms to flood the economy with cash.

5:01pm — London, UK — Biggest airports ask for help as possible closure looms

Britain’s biggest airports — including Heathrow and Gatwick — wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ask that any government support for the aviation industry should include help for airports, which they said could have to shut completely, reported Reuters.

The government is expected to unveil a rescue package later on Tuesday for businesses like airlines and pubs which are threatened with collapse by the coronavirus outbreak.

A group of airport chiefs said in a letter to Johnson that their businesses were being severely impacted by the lack of flights and that jobs could be lost. They asked to be included in any aviation sector support and for a meeting with the transport minister.

“We may have to close passenger facilities and halt operations,” the group said.

“We would, therefore, ask you to make the needs of Britain’s airports a top government priority at this time and make clear your commitment to supporting the aviation industry.”

4:58pm — Moscow, Russia — Scientist begin testing potential coronavirus vaccine 

Russian scientists have begun to test vaccine prototypes for the new coronavirus, and plan to present the most effective one by June, a laboratory chief at a state biotech institute said, AFP reported.

Russia has reported 93 cases of infection but no deaths, according to official numbers published Tuesday.

"The prototypes have been created. We are starting laboratory testing on animals, to ensure effectiveness and safety," Ilnaz Imatdinov of the Vector Institute in Siberia told the Vesti Novosibirsk television channel on Monday.

"In June we will present one or two showing the best results."

4:53pm — Sialkot, Pakistan — 7,200 surgical masks seized

Assistant Commissioner Sialkot Javeria Maqbool Randhawa along with drug inspector raided a warehouse at Bhagowal Road-Sialkot and recovered 7200 surgical masks, reported APP.

Maqbool said that stern action would be taken against those profiteers and hoarders who were creating an artificial shortage of masks.

Making a profit and selling masks on expensive rates would not be tolerated, she added.

4:46pm — Lahore, Pakistan — PHA closes national history museum

Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) on Tuesday announced the closure of the National History Museum at Greater Iqbal Park for visitors in the wake of Coronavirus, reported APP.

Chairing a departmental meeting at Jillani Park (Race Course Park), PHA Director General Muzafar Khan said the department had taken the decision to protect the public from the virus.

He appealed to the participants of the meeting and PHA officials to adopt precautionary measures from the virus.

4:37pm — Geneva, Switzerland — Two COVID-19 cases at World Health HQ

Two cases of COVID-19 have been registered at the World Health Organisation headquarters, a spokesperson said Tuesday, AFP reported.

"We do have two staff confirmed with symptoms of COVID-19," spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told reporters at a virtual press conference.

"This was last week, Friday and Thursday. They both have gone home. They have self-isolated. They showed symptoms.

"Colleagues in the office have been checked and we're waiting for further information on those. Everything so far seems OK with them.

Infections in Switzerland jumped on Sunday by nearly 1,000 cases in 24 hours to 2,200 and 14 deaths were recorded from the virus across the wealthy Alpine country.

4:33pm — Tehran, Iran — 135 new virus deaths, raise total to 988

Iran announced on Tuesday another 135 deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing the overall toll to 988 in one of the world's worst-hit countries, reported AFP.

"Reports by more than 56 laboratories indicated that we have had 1,178 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in the past 24 hours," health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in a televised news conference.

"This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 16,169 as of today noon," he added.

4:28pm — Islamabad, Pakistan — Shahid Khaqan slams govt for mismanagement at Taftan border 

Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Monday slammed the government for mismanagement of quarantine at the Taftan border.

Abbasi warned that the coronavirus grows exponentially and that one person can infect up to 150,000 people within two weeks.

“The government has to run a full-fledged awareness campaign i.e. what is this disease, how can we prevent it, what to do and what not do,” he said.

“After reading the government's ads in newspapers no one can understand anything about the disease (COVID-19),” he added.

4:15pm — Cairo, Egypt — 300 families in quarantine after virus deaths

Egypt has placed over 300 families under quarantine in a Delta village to stem the spread of the new coronavirus after two deaths were recorded this month originating from the area, reported AFP.

"We have confined more than 300 families to their homes where they will remain in quarantine," Health Minister Hala Zayed told late-night television host Amr Adib on Monday.

She explained that "cleansing procedures" were undertaken to prevent further infections and that other "touristic" governorates would also be shut down in coming days.

The "heightened" measures come after Egypt recorded two new deaths, with the toll now rising to four.

4:09pm — Madrid, Spain — Nearly 2,000 new cases logged, as infections top 11,000 

Spain on Tuesday confirmed nearly 2,000 new cases of COVID-19, sending the total spiralling past 11,000, with 491 deaths, the health ministry said, reported APP.

Over the past 24 hours, the number of people infected rose by 1,987, hiking the overall total to 11,178, the ministry's emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon said, while indicating the number of people who had recovered stood at 1,098.

3:55pm — Warsaw, Poland — Govt in quarantine after minister diagnosed with virus

Poland's government was under quarantine on Tuesday after one minister tested positive for the novel coronavirus as authorities introduced sweeping measures to combat the spread of the disease, reported AFP.

All members of the government who attended the March 10 meeting had been tested and the results should be known Tuesday, said Michal Dworczyk. "Until that time, all these people remain in quarantine," he told reporters.

3:54pm — Tehran, Iran — fire festival celebrations banned over virus

Iranian police have banned celebrations marking the country’s traditional Persian New Year fire festival as part of efforts to stop a deadly coronavirus outbreak, state media reported.

Chaharshanbe Soori is held annually on the last Wednesday evening before the spring holiday of Nowrouz, which starts on March 20.

Iranians traditionally jump over fires and light fireworks to celebrate the event, with many suffering burns resulting in hospitalisation.

3:43pm — Tokyo, Japan — Country's Olympics committee deputy head diagnosed of virus

Japan Olympic Committee's deputy chief Kozo Tashima said he had tested positive for the coronavirus, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the Summer Games.

"Today, my test result showed positive for the new coronavirus," Tashima said in a statement, issued via the Japan Football Association, which he also heads.

3:37pm — Lausanne, Switzerland — WHO confirms two coronavirus cases among staff

A World Health Organisation official said on Tuesday that two staff members have been confirmed to be infected with coronavirus.

“The staff had left the office and then at home showed symptoms and were confirmed with COVID-19,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told journalists, referring to the official name of the disease caused by the virus. “We do therefore have two confirmed cases.”

3:30pm — Rawalpindi, Pakistan — Military hospitals operationalised: ISPR

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) announced that all medical facilities of the armed forces have been operationalised and geared up to meet any eventuality to deal with coronavirus pandemic.

The military’s media wing said that coronavirus testing labs have been established at major military hospitals across the country and a central testing lab has been set up at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) in Rawalpindi.

The military’s media wing said that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) has directed all commanders to take “maximum necessary measures” to assist the civil administration for the safety and well-being of the people.

3:00pm — Lahore, Pakistan — PCB says foreign player tested positive for coronavirus

The Pakistan Cricket Board on Tuesday said the decision to postpone PSL was taken after a foreign player tested positive for coronavirus.

The PCB, as part of its duty of care, has made arrangements for all the players and players support staff of the four semi-finalists, match officials, franchise owners and production crew to undergo precautionary tests and has strongly advised them to wait for the results prior to undertaking any travel, the board said in a statement.

2:55pm — Colombo, Sri Lanka — Incoming flights banned for two weeks

Sri Lanka said that it will ban all incoming flights for two weeks from 1830 GMT on Wednesday to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Flights already in the air will be allowed to land and passengers to disembark, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's spokesperson, Mohan Samaranayake, said.

2:51pm — Berlin, Germany — Citizens stranded by virus to be brought back home

Germany will begin repatriating citizens stranded abroad as borders shut and airlines scrap flights because of the coronavirus pandemic, its foreign minister said, as Berlin issued a formal warning against holiday travel abroad.

The government has agreed to spend 50 million euros ($56 million) in a deal with commercial airlines to fly citizens home from affected regions, Heiko Maas said.

"Beyond that, we must prevent other German travellers from getting stranded abroad.

"Please stay at home, that would help you and others. This warning against tourist travel applies worldwide," said Maas, adding that the disruption to air traffic was far from over.

2:27pm — Islamabad, Pakistan — Jazz enforces work from home policy 

Jazz has directed its employees to work from home due to the ongoing pandemic in the world, said a press release issued by the cellular service provider.

“Jazz has mandated its 3000 plus employee base to work from home,” said the statement adding that orders will be effective from 17 March till 31 March.

The company also announced that Jazz’s experience centres will also be closed and customers can rely on alternative technical support mediums.  

2:20pm — Lahore, Pakistan — governor directs VC to provide masks, sanitizers to doctors 

Governor Punjab Muhammad Sarwar directed the vice chancellor of University of Health Sciences to provide masks and hand sanitizers to the doctors at once.

In a meeting with the VC, the governor asked the official to make sure that the doctors do not go on strike during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

2:15pm — Islamabad, Pakistan — NDMA disinfects Islamabad airport 

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has started disinfecting the Islamabad Airport after the rise in the coronavirus cases across the country.

According to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the spray which is being used is environment friendly 

2:10pm — Faisalabad, Pakistan — Faisalabad sets up 250-bed isolation ward

Health Department allocates 250 beds in Faisalabad’s Ghulam Muhammad Abad General Hospital for coronavirus patients.

According to the department, the patients diagnosed with the coronavirus will be shifted to the hospital’s isolation ward.

2:04pm — Gilgit, Gilgit Baltistan — Matric exams cancelled for indefinite period

Matriculation exams scheduled to be held in Gilgit Baltistan have been suspended for an indefinite in the region due to the coronavirus.

The exams, which were to be conducted by Karakoram International University Examination Board, were scheduled to begin from March 31.

1:30pm — Lahore, Punjab — Five new cases reported, Pakistan tally rises to 193

Punjab on Tuesday reported five more coronavirus cases taking the provincial toll to six.

”Five pilgrims who recently returned to DG Khan have tested positive for coronavirus," Provincial Health Minister Yasmin Rashid said while addressing a press conference. “All those testing positive have been quarantined at a facility.”

“Right now there are 736 pilgrims from Taftan being monitored,” she said. 

She also dismissed reports of the Punjab government hiding reports of the patients.  

12:40pm — Islamabad, Pakistan — Foreign Office spends consular service

The Foreign Office on Tuesday announced it was suspending all walk-in consular services from March 18 till April 3 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

FO spokesperson Aisha Farooqui, in a tweet, said the decision has been taken to deal with the rising threat of Covid-19. She, however, clarified that the attestation of power of attorney will not be suspended in this time period.

12:15pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Sindh reports five more cases, provincial tally rises to 155

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 155 in Sindh after five more cases were reported in the province on Tuesday.

12:00pm — PSL 2020 postponed due to coronavirus

The Pakistan Super League has been called off with the knockouts to go, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced on Tuesday.

"PSL 2020 postponed, to be rescheduled. More details to follow in due course," the PCB said in a post on Twitter.

Read more here. 

11:45am — Peshawar, KP — Provincial govt sets up additional quarantine centres

KP government spokesperson Ajmal Wazir on Tuesday said the provincial government has set up additional quarantine centres for the 250 pilgrims coming into the province today.

“We have set up quarantine centres for the pilgrims coming into country,” Wazir told a press conference.

Wazir added that all trainings have been postponed at the police academy. “All the decisions that we are taking are being done to keep the public safe. Our first priority is to keep our province safe.”

“We all need to work together,” he added. 

11:00am — Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan — Borders closed

Kyrgyzstan has banned entry to all foreigners to safeguard against a coronavirus, Deputy Prime Minister Altynai Omurbekova said on Tuesday.

The country has reported no virus cases on its soil, although all its neighbors, except one, have infections.

10:30am — Bangkok, Thailand — 30 new cases reported, tally rises to 177

Thailand reported 30 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, raising the total to 177, Sukhum Kanchanaphimai, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Public Health told a news conference.

Most of the cases, 70% to 80%, in Thailand are recorded in Bangkok, he said.

Thailand has recorded one coronavirus fatality and 41 patients have recovered and returned home

10:00am — Agra, India — India closes Taj Mahal, Mumbai slashes workforce in half

India closed the Taj Mahal, its top tourist site, and the financial hub of Mumbai ordered offices providing non-essential services to keep half their staff at home as efforts to control the spread of coronavirus in South Asia ramped up.

Mumbai also authorised hospital and airport authorities to stamp the wrists of those who have been ordered to self-isolate with indelible ink reading "Home Quarantined" and displaying the date until which the person has been ordered to self-quarantine.

India's western state of Maharashtra has been the hardest-hit in India with 39 confirmed coronavirus cases.

India expanded its travel and visa restrictions on Monday, banning passengers travelling from member countries of the EU, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey, and the UK.

9:45am — Quetta, Pakistan — Balochistan spokesperson says federal govt should have set-up quarantine facility

Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani has said the provincial government set up the quarantine facility at Taftan even though it was the federal government’s responsibility.

Shahwani told Geo Pakistan that the test kits provided to them were also not enough, adding that they could not carry out tests of 4,600 people at once.

The spokesperson also said by keeping the pilgrims at the quarantine facility at the border gave the other provinces to prepare for the pandemic.

9:30am — Lahore, Pakistan — Provincial health minister says more than 100 suspected people tested

Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid on Tuesday said more than 100 people have been tested for coronavirus in the province.

“We have more than 2,500 testing kits,” Rashid told Geo Pakistan. “Those pilgrims coming from DG Khan are also being tested.”

9:20am — Karachi, Pakistan — 2 people arrested for ignoring govt’s orders

The authorities arrested two people from Karachi’s Zaman Town in the city’s Korangi locality on Tuesday after they were reported to be holding an event despite the government’s ban on gatherings.

The police arrested the two suspects and have registered a case against them. 

9:00am — Paris, France — Europe locks down as global virus panic spreads

European leaders are set to ban non-essential travel into the continent on Tuesday, the latest drastic attempt to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

With French President Emmanuel Macron describing the battle against COVID-19 as a "war", governments around the world are imposing restrictions rarely seen in peace-time, slamming borders shut and forcing citizens to stay home.

Italy — the hardest hit nation in Europe — announced another surge in deaths, taking its overall toll to more than 2,000 from a worldwide total of more than 7,000.

More than 175,530 cases have been recorded in 145 countries.

8:45am — New York, US — UNSC halts meetings due to coronavirus

The UN Security Council called off its two remaining meetings for the week on Monday due to the coronavirus crisis.

After the earlier cancellation of the meeting planned for Tuesday, the UNSC was planning to discuss the situation in Sudan's Darfur region and hold a multilateralism meeting on Thursday.

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told journalists that a positive COVID-19 case had been identified among staff at the organisation's Secretariat in New York, after a Philippines diplomat was reported infected last week.

Read more on this here.

8:30am — Beijing, China — 1 new domestic case, 20 imported cases reported

China reported on Tuesday just one new domestic coronavirus infection but found 20 more cases imported from abroad, threatening to spoil its progress against the disease.

Beijing started on Monday to require almost all international arrivals to go into 14-day quarantine in designated hotels.

People who live alone, minors, the elderly, pregnant women and people with underlying conditions are allowed to confine themselves at home.

Nine of the 20 new imported cases were in Beijing and three in Shanghai, raising the total number of confirmed infections from abroad to 143, according to the National Health Commission.

The country has recorded 80,881 total cases, but fewer than 9,000 people remain infected.

8:20am — Wellington, NZ — NZ unveils huge stimulus package to ease pandemic shock

New Zealand unveiled a NZ$12.1 billion (US$7.3 billion) stimulus package Tuesday as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern raided the nation's "rainy day" fund to soften the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson conceded "recession is almost certain" but said the package — which focuses on wage subsidies, tax breaks and a boost to healthcare — would help contain its impact.

8:00am — Karachi, Pakistan – 4 new cases reported in Sindh, nation-wide tally at 183

The number of confirmed cases in Pakistan rose to 183 in Pakistan on Tuesday after four more cases were reported in Karachi.

According to the provincial health department, the number of confirmed cases from Karachi stand at 30 now with one case reported from Hyderabad. 

12:00am — Karachi/Peshawar, Pakistan — Provincial govts to provide ration for virus patients' families

The governments of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Monday announced rations for families of people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has directed for ration packages — including 20 kilogrammes worth of flour, 10 kilos each of rice and sugar, a carton of one-litre milk, five kilos of pulses, and five boxes of tea — to be provided to the coronavirus affectees' families, a notification issued by the KP government's Relief Department read.

On the other hand, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah directed for rations to be provided to the families of people kept in the isolation centre in Sukkur.

"Your breadwinners are in isolation, you must be worried about daily income," Shah said. "Don't worry about those in isolation centre; focus on your health instead."

9:43pm/March 16 — Sukkur, Pakistan — 43 new cases reported in Sindh, country tally up at 179

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Pakistan rose to 179 after a sharp increase in cases was reported among pilgrims who have recently returned from Iran via Taftan and were being quarantined in Sukkur.

The total number of confirmed cases in Sindh shot from 103 to 146 after 43 new cases were reported in Sukkur.