Uzbekistan early on March 15 reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19, with the government saying the infected person was an Uzbek citizen returning from France.
The same day, neighboring Kazakhstan declared a state of emergency as authorities announced that three new cases had been recorded, pushing the total number there to nine.
Kazakhstan was thought to have been coronavirus-free until four infections were confirmed on March 13. The state of emergency announced by presidential decree imposes a nationwide quarantine and will restrict both entry to and departure from the country to all except diplomats and individuals invited by the government.
Kazakhstan had already announced the cancelation of Norouz holiday celebrations and a military parade devoted to the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.
Officials there previously said more than 1,000 people were in quarantine and nearly 500 others in self-quarantine at home.
Uzbekistan announced similar sweeping measures on March 15, barring entry for all foreigners and departures by locals.
The Uzbek government also closed schools and universities for three weeks, canceled all public events, and suspended international air and highway connections beginning March 16.
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are the only Central Asian republics to have officially registered any cases of the new coronavirus at the center of a global pandemic.
Iranian Deaths Top 700
Meanwhile, in Iran, as the number of fatalities attributed to COVID-19 topped 700, the official handling the response to the pandemic warned that the country's health facilities could soon be overwhelmed.
“If the trend continues, there will not be enough capacity,” the state-run IRNA news agency quoted Ali Reza Zali as saying on March 15.
The country has reported that nearly 14,000 people are infected, behind only China and Italy.
Iran reportedly has around 110,000 hospital beds, including 30,000 in Tehran, and has said it will set up mobile clinics. Critics fear the real number of COVID-19 infections could be much higher as questions swirl over the government's transparency with regard to the issue.
Zali said that many of those who died were otherwise healthy, while Iran's Health Ministry published statistics showing that 55 percent of those who died were in their 60s, but 15 percent were younger than 40.
Iranian Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in a televised news conference that people "should cancel all travel and stay at home so that we may see the situation improving in the coming days."
Clerical rulers in Iran have closed schools and universities and suspended religious, cultural, and sports events across the country to combat the outbreak, and the country has sought a $5-billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help finance the effort.
Trump Negative For Coronavirus
Countries around the world continued to introduce new measures in an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center, which combines WHO figures and local media reports, put the precise number of COVID-19 infections around the world at 162,627 as of March 15, with 6,065 deaths. It shows 75,620 patients have recovered after testing positive for the virus.
A Reuters tally put the numbers at 162,365 people infected and 6,070 dead. It put the number of those recovered at 75,871.
Across Europe, which was recently identified by the World Health Organization as the epicenter of the pandemic that emerged in China in December 2019, many states were restricting limits on day-to-day movements and international travel in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Despite taking similar measures, France was going forward with local elections on March 15, arguing that the vote was essential to democratic continuity.
In the United States, a travel ban on flights from 26 European states that has caused chaos at airports was being extended to include the United Kingdom and Ireland.
U.S. President Donald Trump has tested negative for the coronavirus, the White House physician has said.
"This evening, I received confirmation that the test is negative," Sean Conley, the president's physician said in a statement on March 14.
"One week after having dinner with the Brazilian delegation at Mar-a-Lago, the president remains symptom-free," he said, referring to Trump’s Florida resort.
In China, authorities continued to record lower numbers of domestic infections, but were imposing new checks on international travelers after 16 new imported cases were reported on March 14.
In Russia, four new cases of COVID-19 infection were announced on March 15, bringing the total there to 63.
Rail service between Russia and Ukraine, Moldova, and Latvia will be suspended as of March 17, according to a subsidiary of Russian Railways.
Armenia shut down the city of Vagharshapat, west of the capital, Yerevan, in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on March 15.
Eighteen coronavirus cases out of 28 registered in Armenia were reported from Vagharshapat, also known as Echmiadzin. The city has a population of 46,000 people.
Pashinian said the local residents will be able to leave the city only after having their body temperature taken.
Italy, the hardest-hit country in Europe with more than 1,800 fatalities, recorded 368 new deaths on March 15, the country’s civil-protection authority said.
The Vatican announced that Pope Francis will not lead any public Easter celebrations.
Britain, which had resisted major restrictions, was reportedly preparing to ban large gatherings.
The pandemic has roiled world financial markets and prompted many governments to pledge spending packages to try to limit economic effects.