Deal struck on $2tn US coronavirus stimulus package: Live updates

Deal struck on $2tn US coronavirus stimulus package: Live updates

The White House and Senate leaders of both parties have struck an agreement on a sweeping $2 trillion measure to aid workers, businesses and a healthcare system strained by the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak.

The agreement on Wednesday came after days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure and still needs to be finalised in detailed legislative language.


Meanwhile, India’s 1.3 billion people have joined the global lockdown triggered by the outbreak as the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concern at the acceleration of the pandemic in the United States, and Italy recorded another large increase in deaths from COVID-19.

Over 108,000 of the 423,000 people diagnosed with the disease have recovered, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. More than 18,900 people have died from COVID-19 since it first emerged in China late last year.

Here are the latest updates:

Wednesday, March 25

08:05 GMT – Thai lockdown sparks exodus of 60,000 migrant workers

About 60,000 migrant workers living in Thailand have left the country since authorities shut malls and many businesses on the weekend, a Thai interior ministry official said.

The official told Reuters 60,000 migrant workers from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar had returned home as of Tuesday.

The country has closed its land borders, told people to stay at home, and closed most businesses in an attempt to curb the virus.

India declares 21-day ‘total lockdown’

08:00 GMT – Mexico suspends refugee requests

Mexico temporarily halted the processing of asylum requests from Tuesday, its refugee agency said.

Migration authorities will resume processing applications on April 20, Mexico’s refugee agency COMAR said, in line with a government order for various public offices to halt certain functions.

The foreign ministry will put the issuance of passports on hold from March 27 to April 19, it said.

07:50 GMT – India bans export of malaria drug

India’s government said that it is banning the export of hydroxychloroquine and formulations made from the medication, as experts test its efficacy in helping treat patients.

There are currently no approved treatments, or vaccines for COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory illness. Researchers are studying existing treatments and working on experimental ones, but most patients receive only breathing assistance.

Hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, is among the medications that are being tested, as a potential treatment. Earlier this week, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), which maintains a list of drug shortages, said there is a shortage of hydroxychloroquine.

“Chloroquine has demonstrated toxicity in certain patients,” Dinesh Dua, chairman of the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India, told Reuters. “You have to tread with caution because there is no comprehensive data to prove it works.”

india lockdown

People gather at a pharmacy in Mumbai to buy supplies following Indian Prime Minister’s announcement of a government-imposed nationwide lockdown [Indranil Mukherjee/AFP]

07:35 GMT – Singapore not ruling out holding elections

Singapore’s government said it was not ruling out holding a general election, saying strong leadership was needed in a crisis.

Singapore, which must hold a ballot by early 2021, revised its electoral boundaries this month, in a move typically seen as a precursor to calling a vote. Some opposition parties have urged against an election over health risks.

In parliament, senior minister Teo Chee Hean said “the present situation is not ideal” but said that because the outbreak could continue for some time, Singapore could go for early elections.

07:20 GMT – Germany reports 4,191 new cases

Confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Germany have risen to 31,554 while 149 people have died of the COVID-19 disease, according to statistics from the RKI health institute.

Cases rose by 4,191 while the death toll increased by 36, the tally showed.

07:05 GMT – Cases in South Africa rise to 709: health minister

Coronavirus cases in South Africa has risen to 709, from 554 on Tuesday, health minister Zweli Mkhize said, speaking on the local news channel SABC.

A store assistant gives people hand sanitiser as shoppers stock up on groceries at a Makro Store ahead of a nationwide 21 day lockdown in an attempt to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbr

A store assistant gives people hand sanitiser as shoppers stock up on groceries at a Makro Store in Durban, South Africa [Rogan Ward/Reuters]

06:30 GMT -Taiwan confirms 19 more cases, total now at 235

Taiwan confirmed 19 new coronavirus cases, all imported, bringing the total number of infected people to 235.


This is Mersiha Gadzo in Doha taking over the live updates from my colleague Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.


05:40 GMT – Federal officials reach deal on $2 trillion stimulus package

The White House and Senate leaders from both parties have struck an agreement on a sweeping $2 trillion measure to aid workers, businesses and a healthcare system strained by the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak.

The agreement came after days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure; it still needs to be finalized in detailed legislative language.

The unprecedented economic rescue package would give most Americans direct payments, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367bn programme for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.

One of the last issues to close concerned $500bn for guaranteed, subsidised loans to larger industries, including a fight over how generous to be with the airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well.

Read more here.

05:15 GMT – Malaysia extends lockdown until April 14

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin says a two-week lockdown that began on March 18 will be extended until April 14. 

In a televised speech to the country, Muhyiddin said 172 more cases were confirmed on Wednesday, bringing the total across the country to 1,796.

He assured people there were plenty of supplies and that the government would be ramping up testing, especially in virus “hotspots”.

A soldier and a police officer wearing protective masks show a placard to a motorcyclist at a roadblock set up to enforce movement control order due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-1

A soldier and a police officer show a placard to a motorcyclist at a roadblock set up to enforce movement control order in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia [Lim Huey Teng/Reuters]

04:55 GMT – South Korea offers spare medical equipment to US

South Korea says it will send medical equipment to the US if it can spare any, after an urgent request from US President Donald Trump.

In a 23-minute phone call, Trump told President Moon Jae-in he would help Korean producers obtain approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their equipment, South Korea’s Blue House said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Moon told Trump that South Korea “will provide as much support as possible, if there is spare medical equipment in Korea”.

south korea blog entry

People walk through an alleyway in Seoul, South Korea [Ed Jones/AFP]

04:35 GMT – Cruise ship passengers to be quarantined on Australian island

Some 800 Australian passengers on board the Vasco de Gama cruise ship, which is due to dock in the western Australian port of Fremantle on Friday, will be taken to Rottnest Island for quarantine, according to the ABC.

Rottnest is a popular holiday island renowned for its wildlife. It lies about 24 kilometres (15 miles) west of Fremantle.

04:30 GMT – Hefty fines for NSW residents who breach self-isolation

Police in New South Wales are detailing the powers they will be given to enforce the increasing restrictions on daily life in Australia’s most populous state, including fines of 1,000 Australian dollars ($604) for those who breach self-isolation rules.

The state earlier announced 211 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total to 1,029.

04:20 GMT – Malaysia records 17th death

Malaysia has reported its 17th death from coronavirus.

The health ministry says the latest death was a 66-year-old man with a history of chronic illness who died in the southern state of Johor.

04:15 GMT – Thailand cases rise as government prepares to invoke emergency

Confirmed cases of coronavirus in Thailand rose to 934 on Wednesday, a day before a state of emergency is due to come into force, giving the government sweeping powers.

A health official said a further 107 people had been diagnosed with the infection.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who first took power in a coup in 2014, said emergency rule would begin on Thursday. The decree allows the government to “censor or shut down the media if deemed necessary”, among other measures.

thailand blog entry

Migrant workers from Myanmar pass through border gate at Myawaddy, Myanmar, after leaving Thailand due to the coronavirus outbreak [Thant Zin Aung/Reuters]

The US has lifted a ban on a Malaysian medical glove maker it previously accused of using forced labour.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Tuesday said disposable rubber gloves made by WRP Asia Pacific after March 16 would be allowed into the country. 

Malaysia is the world’s biggest manufacturer of medical gloves and WRP has the capacity to produce more than 11 billion gloves a year.

03:45 GMT – Malaysia PM to make special address to nation; more financial support offered

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will make a special televised address at 1pm (05:00 GMT), with the country halfway through a two-week lockdown.

The government earlier announced a series of measures to ease financial stress, including a moratorium on loan repayments. 

03:15 GMT – South Korea reports 100 more coronavirus cases

South Korea has reported 100 more cases of the new coronavirus over the past 24 hours, raising the country’s total to 9,137.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement that 34 of the 100 cases were reported in the Seoul metropolitan area.

The KCDC also said nationwide fatalities from the virus increased by six to 126.

03:15 GMT – Philippines Communist rebels to observe ceasefire after UN call

Communist rebels in the Philippines say they will observe a ceasefire after UN chief Antonio Guterres called for an end to all armed conflicts because of the coronavirus.

The Communist Party of the Philippines says its New People’s Army has been ordered to stop all offensives from Thursday until April 15. The conflict has been going on for more than 50 years.

03:00 GMT – Bolsonaro accuses Brazil media of fuelling hysteria

Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro is accusing the media of stoking hysteria over the coronavirus, repeating his view that concerns about the virus are overblown.

“The virus arrived, we are confronting it, and it will pass shortly,” he said in a televised address. “Our lives have to continue. Jobs should be maintained.”

About 2,200 people in Brazil have been confirmed to have the virus, with 46 deaths reported.

Brazil anti Bolsonaro

Brazilians banged pots and pans at their windows to show their disgust at Bolsonaro’s handling of coronavirus [Pilar Olivares/Reuters]

02:15 GMT – ‘Bunker down’: New Zealand declares state of emergency

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has declared a state of national emergency as the country prepared to go into a month-long lockdown at midnight (11:00 GMT).

The country has 205 cases, but Ardern says modelling suggests there could actually be thousands.

All non-essential services, schools and offices will be shut and people told to stay at home.

“Make no mistake this will get worse before it gets better,” Ardern told Parliament. “We will have a lag and cases will increase for the next week or so. Then we’ll begin to know how successful we have been.”

01:55 GMT – Australia tightens restrictions, worries about intensive care needs

Australia has further tightened restrictions on movement, including limiting the number of people allowed at a wedding to five and those attending a funeral to 10.

Officials are concerned that if the number of cases continues to rise (there are now more than 2,250 confirmed cases) intensive care will be overwhelmed.

01:30 GMT – Xi Jinping to attend G20 video summit

Chinese President Xi Jinping will take part in the virtual G20 summit on the coronavirus that is due to take place on Thursday.

00:40 GMT – South Korea to step up screening of arrivals from US

South Korea plans to step up screening procedures for people arriving in the country from the US, Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday.

The new measures will come into effect no later than midnight on Friday (15:00 GMT).

People arriving from Europe are already required to be tested and complete two weeks of self-isolation.

00:30 GMT – China reports 47 more cases in people coming from overseas

China continues to report more cases in people returning to the country from overseas.

It now has a total of 474 such cases, with an increase of 47 at the end of Tuesday.

The Foreign Ministry says most of the cases involve foreign nationals, but anyone arriving from overseas is required to go into centralised quarantine for 14 days.

I’m Kate Mayberry with Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

For all the updates from yesterday (March 24), click here.


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