The World Health Organisation has warned the US could become the new coronavirus epicentre, as Japanese and games officials moved the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to 2021.
In Austria, authorities plan to use big data while testing up to 15,000 people per day, while in India, all of its 1.3 billion people are required to stay home for the next 21 days.
This story is being updated regularly throughout the day. You can also stay informed with the latest episode of the Coronacast podcast.
Wednesday’s key moments
US sees acceleration in new cases, triggering alarm
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the United States could become the global epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.
Over the previous 24 hours, 85 per cent of new cases were in Europe and the United States, and of those, 40 per cent were in the US.
As of Monday, the virus had infected more than 42,000 people there, killing at least 559.
Asked whether the US could become the new epicentre, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said: “We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the US. So it does have that potential.”
@rxed tweet: W.H.O: The US is on its way to become the new “epicenter” Of the pandemic because up to 40% of NEW #Coronavirus #COVID19 cases originate in the US
Some US state and local officials have criticised the lack of coordinated federal action, saying that having localities act on their own has put them in competition for supplies.
President Donald Trump acknowledged the difficulty.
“The World market for face masks and ventilators is Crazy. We are helping the states to get equipment, but it is not easy,” he tweeted.
London turns exhibition centre into sick bay
London’s huge ExCel exhibition centre will be converted into a 4,000 bed temporary hospital to try and combat the expected flood of coronavirus patients in the UK.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new Nightingale hospital will open next week and consist of two wards housing up to 2,000 people each, and be staffed by National Health Service (NHS) staff and military medical personnel.
@NicholasDole: UK Govt preparing to open emergency #COVID19 hospital at the ExCel exhibition centre in London. “NHS Nightingale Hospital” will have 2 wards with 2000 beds each. Staffed by NHS and military. Open next week.
“The NHS Nightingale hospital will comprise two wards each of 2000 people,” Mr Hancock said.
“With the help of the military and with NHS clinicians, we will make sure that we have the capacity that we need so that everyone can get the support they need.”
Mr Hancock said the country was also looking for up to 250,000 volunteers to help out the NHS and vulnerable people during the crisis.
Volunteers in good health will be asked to help with shopping for groceries, delivering medicines from pharmacies and phoning vulnerable people isolating at home to check on them.
“If you are well and able to do so safely, I would urge you to sign up today to help the most vulnerable people in our communities as an NHS Volunteer Responder,” Mr Hancock said.
The UK’s death toll from coronavirus stands at 422, with over 8,000 people infected by the virus from the 90,000 people tested.
Austria plans to test 15,000 a day
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he will massively expand coronavirus testing in coming days to locate and isolate infected people and avoid an Italian-like overload of its health system.
The Alpine republic with a population of 8.8 million has tested around 28,400 people so far with nearly 4,900 cases and 28 deaths confirmed.
It was one of the first European countries to put severe restrictions on movement and close shops and schools in response to the developments in neighbouring Italy and a strong increase in coronavirus infections in its western regions.
In coming weeks, Austria plans to test up to 15,000 people per day, the Chancellor said.
He referred to brand new tests that are comparably cheap but take longer than laboratory tests used up until now.
Lessons from other countries showed that it was crucial to remain disciplined and to make use of “big data”.
Austria’s Red Cross is promoting a so-called “Stop Corona” app, which enables a user to digitally store who he meets and when. If a person shows symptoms of COVID-19, these contact persons can be notified.
Austria’s mobile carrier A1 Telekom Austria is already sharing results from a motion analysis application that visualizes the movement flows of groups of people with the health authority.
Australian public life more restricted
Prime Minister Scott Morrison last night announced further restrictions on businesses, public gatherings and overseas travel in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.
From midnight Wednesday, these activities and businesses are longer allowed to continue operating:
- Amusement parks and arcades
- Indoor and outdoor play centres
- Community and recreation centres, health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre, spin facilities, saunas, wellness centres
- Swimming pools
- Galleries, museums, national institutions, historic sites, libraries, community centres
- Auction houses
- Real estate auctions and open house inspections
- In-store beauty therapy, tanning, waxing, nail salons and tattoo parlours, spa and massage parlours (excluding health-related services, like physiotherapy)
- Food courts within shopping centres will only be able to sell takeaway. Shopping centres themselves will remain open
Mr Morrison also addressed specifics around a number of other activities:
- Hairdressers and barber shops can continue, but they must limit the time a customer is in the premise to no more than 30 minutes
- Personal training and boot camps are limited to a maximum of 10 people
- Weddings can continue, but only with the couple, the celebrant, and witnesses — totalling a maximum of five people
- Funerals are limited to a maximum of 10 people
- Outdoor and indoor food markets will be addressed by individual states and territories
The Prime Minister also said Australians would be banned from travelling overseas, with some exceptions made for aid workers and for compassionate, employment and other essential travel.
He also said the advice on schools had not changed and it was safe to send children to school.
On a broader note, Mr Morrison said people should not go out and “participate more broadly in the community, unless you’re shopping for basics or there are medical needs or you’re providing care and support to an individual at another place.”
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
‘Tokyo 2020’ to be held in 2021
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has put an end to mounting speculation over the fate of this year’s Tokyo Olympics by asking officials to postpone it by a year.
He said the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Thomas Bach agreed with him 100 per cent.
“The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held at the latest by the Summer of 2021 — and [Mr Bach] agreed with that,” Mr Abe said.
“As a symbol of mankind’s victory over coronavirus, we will host the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in their complete form.”
Tokyo’s Governor Yuriko Koike said the Games would still be branded the 2020 Olympics, even though they would be held in 2021.
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
India goes into total lockdown for 21 days
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered a 21-day lockdown of the world’s second most populous country of more than 1.3 billion people.
Health researchers have warned that more than a million people in India could be infected with the coronavirus by mid-May, prompting the Government to shut down all air and train travel, businesses and schools.
As part of the measures, nobody will be allowed to leave their homes for the next three weeks beginning midnight Tuesday.
“The only way to save ourselves from coronavirus is if we don’t leave our homes, whatever happens, we stay at home,” Mr Modi said.
He called the order a “total lockdown” and did not address whether any service providers would be exempt, but said that “all steps have been taken by central and state government to ensure supply of essential items.”
It was not clear what this would mean for about 300 million Indians who, according to official data, live below the poverty line.
India has reported 482 cases of the coronavirus, while nine people have died from the COVID-19 disease it causes.
There have been 40 recoveries, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak
State-by-state breakdown of confirmed coronavirus cases
There are 2,052 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia:
- NSW: 818
- Victoria: 411
- Queensland: 397
- South Australia: 170
- Western Australia: 175
- ACT: 39
- Tasmania: 36
- Northern Territory: 6
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