Coronavirus: Almost 200 deaths in Italy as cases surge globally
World ‘on the verge’ of 100,000 confirmed cases, says World Health Organization chief
Firefighters disinfect a shopping centre to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Tehran, Iran on Friday. Photograph: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP
“We are now on the verge of reaching 100,000 confirmed cases” of coronavirus, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday.
Here is a breakdown of the cases and the outbreaks not on the island of Ireland as of the afternoon of Friday, March 6th.
The country’s central province of Hubei, excluding the provincial capital Wuhan, has reported no new cases of coronavirus over 24 hours for the first time in the outbreak, as authorities seek to stem imported infections in other areas.
Wuhan, the centre of the epidemic, reported 126 new confirmed cases on Thursday but there were no new infections elsewhere in the province, the National Health Commission said on Friday.
Elsewhere in China, schools in provinces reporting no new cases for a number of days started to set reopening dates.
Qinghai, a northwesterly province that had reported no new infections for 29 days as of March 5, said it would stagger the start date of different schools between March 11 and March 20, according to a notice posted on an official website.
The southwesterly province of Guizhou has said its schools would start reopening from March 16.
Outside of Hubei, there were 17 new confirmed cases, bringing the total new infections in mainland China to 143 on Thursday, up from 139 cases a day earlier.
Beijing’s four new cases had come from Italy. On Friday, one of the city’s government officials described its epidemic control campaign as being at its most challenging period, adding that roughly 827,000 people who had returned to the capital from outside – most of them from extended Lunar New Year holidays – were currently undergoing home observation.
Last month, Gansu became the first province to lower its emergency response measures from level I – the most serious level on a four-tier system – to level III, reflecting the lack of new infections.
Tibet became the latest region to lower its emergency response level on Friday, announcing on an official website that some areas had eased to level II and others to level III.
The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has risen by 49 to 197, the Civil Protection Agency said on Friday, the largest daily increase in fatalities since the contagion was uncovered two weeks ago.
Italy is currently reporting more deaths from the virus than any other country in the world and the government this week ordered the closure of schools, universities, cinemas and theatres around the country to try to stem the infections.
The cumulative number of cases in the country, which has been the hardest hit in Europe by the epidemic, totalled 4,636 compared with 3,858 on Thursday. The Vatican, an independent state that sits in the heart of Rome, also registered its first case on Friday.
The national health institute said the average age of those who had died so far was 81, with the vast majority suffering underlying health problems.
Earlier on Friday, the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Bristol.
Debra Lapthorne, centre director, Public Health England South West, said: “Public Health England is contacting people who had close contact with one of the latest confirmed cases of Covid-19.
“The case is a resident of Bristol and became infected whilst in north Italy.
“Close contacts will be given health advice about symptoms and emergency contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after contact with the confirmed case.”
More than 160 people have now tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, in the largest day-on-day increase.
In total, 163 people had tested positive for Covid-19 as of 9am on Friday, up from 115 cases reported at the same time on Thursday.
France has 613 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the head of the public health service, Jerome Salomon, said on Friday, which is an increase of 190 compared to a day earlier.
During a press briefing, he added the death toll from the disease was still at nine and that 39 persons were in intensive care.
Earlier, the country’s president Emmanuel Macron visited a retirement home in Paris, which has 94 residents, the oldest aged 107, in a move to reassure both the elderly and health workers about France’s readiness to combat the spread of the virus.
Mr Macron said France will likely move to the highest level of epidemic alert “in the coming days” as Covid-19 keeps spreading.
The virus is known to affect the elderly and the sick more than other groups of people.
Mr Macron said: “The priority of the nation is to protect our elderly people.
“We must do it with responsibility, common sense and measures of discipline, and without any panic.”
Mr Macron announced earlier this week that his government was requisitioning all current and future stocks of protective masks in order to ensure their distribution to virus patients and health workers.
Slovakia will ban flights to and from Italy, the European country worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak, starting Monday, prime minister Peter Pellegrini said on Friday after announcing Slovakia’s first case of the new virus.
Mr Pellegrini said Slovakia would also ban school trips abroad and bar visitors from hospitals among measures to contain the outbreak.
US president Donald Trump was facing growing pressure on Friday to respond to the threat of coronavirus as the number of cases there continued to rise.
More than 14 deaths were reported, while new states, including Maryland, close to Washington DC, reported fresh cases.
The number of infected people in New York state rose to 33, with almost 3,000 people in home isolation in the state. Most of them had returned from directly affected countries like Italy, China, Iran and South Korea. A second patient also tested positive in New Jersey.
Speaking in the White House, where he signed an $8.3 billion package of emergency measures designed to tackle the impact of the virus, Mr Trump said he was “doing very well” in terms of addressing the crisis.
He described the coronavirus as an “unforeseen problem,” that “came out of nowhere – but we’re taking care of it”, he added, noting that more Americans would be staying in the US instead of leaving and spending money in other countries..
South Korea and Japan
South Korea said on Friday it would suspend visas and visa waivers for Japan in response to Tokyo’s own travel restrictions on Koreans, as fears over the spreading coronavirus rekindled a feud between the neighbours dating back to before the second World War.
South Korea’s curbs, which take effect on Monday, also include special entry procedures for non-Japanese foreigners arriving from Japan, Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young told a briefing.
At present, Japanese can visit South Korea for 90 days without a visa.
Seoul had earlier summoned the Japanese envoy to protest against Japan’s decision to quarantine South Korean visitors for two weeks.
Japan is among almost 100 countries to impose curbs on travellers from South Korea, which has suffered 44 deaths and 6,593 infections in the biggest outbreak outside China, where the virus emerged late last year.
The number of cases in Japan grew to 1,112 on Friday, with 55 new infections reported from Yamaguchi prefecture in the southwest to Hokkaido in the north, according to the national broadcaster NHK.
Thirteen of the new cases were people who visited a live music venue in Osaka or their family members, NHK said.
Japan has barred visitors altogether from highly affected areas in South Korea and ordered two weeks’ quarantine for others.
The spread of the disease has raised doubts about whether Tokyo will be able to host the Olympics this summer, but the government has insisted the Games will go ahead as scheduled.
The number of new cases of the virus fell to 505 in South Korea on Friday, from 760 the previous day, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.
Vice health minister Kim Gang-lip said authorities had almost finished tests on more than 200,000 followers of a church in southeastern Daegu at the centre of the outbreak.
The outbreak has largely spared that part of Africa so far, but since last month cases have been detected in Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. North African countries have registered more than two dozen cases.
In the central African country of Cameroon, the health ministry said a 58-year-old French citizen who arrived in the capital Yaounde on Feb. 24 had fallen ill with the virus. It later said the man’s female partner had also tested positive.
“We need to follow his contacts. Our collaborators are on the ground; they are working,” said Health Minister Manaouda Malachie.
It is not yet clear why there have been so few cases in Africa, but case counts are rising. Egypt’s health ministry said on Friday it had registered 12 asymptomatic cases on a Nile cruise ship.
Iran said Covid-19 has killed 124 people amid 4,747 confirmed cases in the Islamic Republic as authorities warned they may use “force” to limit travel between cities.
He did not elaborate on the threat to use force, though he acknowledged the virus now was in all of Iran’s 31 provinces.
The threat may be to stop people from using the closed schools and universities as an excuse to go to the Caspian Sea and other Iranian holiday spots.
Iran on Thursday announced it would put checkpoints in place to limit travel between major cities, hoping to stem the spread of the virus.
Iran cancelled Friday prayers across its major cities.
Elsewhere in the region, Iraq cancelled Friday prayers in Karbala, where a weekly sermon is delivered on behalf of the country’s top Shiite cleric.
Authorities in the United Arab Emirates meanwhile limited prayers to two verses of the Koran so they lasted no longer than 10 minutes, over concerns about the virus.
More than 4,990 cases of the virus, which causes the illness Covid-19, have been confirmed across the Middle East.
Iran and Italy have the world’s highest death tolls outside of China.
In Tehran, firefighters sprayed disinfectant on an 11-mile length of Tehran’s famous Valiasr Avenue, some from fire engines and others walking along its sidewalks, spraying ATMs and storefronts.
“It would be great if they did it every day,” grocery store owner Reza Razaienejad said after the firefighters sprayed outside his shop.
“It should not be just a one-time thing and should be done frequently, especially in places like here where movement and traffic happens a lot.”
But Iran offered some hope as well.
Authorities reported a woman infected with the virus gave birth to a girl late Thursday night in Qom, the Shiite holy city particularly hard-hit by the virus.
Twelve asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus have been registered on board a Nile cruise ship, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Egypt’s health ministry said on Friday.
Asymptomatic cases are those who carry the virus but display no symptoms of illness such as fever. There were no further details from the WHO about the 12 individual cases mentioned in a joint statement issued by the WHO and the health ministry.
WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove said on Thursday the organization did not believe transmission of the disease by asymptomatic people was a major factor fuelling its spread.
The 12 cases were diagnosed after a Taiwanese-American woman who had been on the cruise tested positive for the coronavirus upon her return home, the statement said. She was believed to be the individual who spread the virus to the others.
The new cases will be transferred to an isolation facility and all others who had been in contact with them will be placed under a 14-day quarantine, the ministry said. – Agencies