Dubai: From Mongolia's president submitting to a quarantine, to the Swiss banning large-scale events, the spread of the coronavirus on Friday was rapid enough for the World Health Organisation to issue another warning. The number of new coronavirus cases in the world rose to 83,853, including 2,873 deaths, across 56 countries and territories. A look at some of the major news events related to Covid-19.
Authorities in Italy moved Friday to re-open schools and museums amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country which has the most cases outside of Asia, as Italians yearned for a return to normal life even as other European countries were introducing restrictions or closures to rein in the spread of the disease.
Even in the most heavily affected regions - Lombardy and Veneto in the north, where some entire small towns have been under quarantine in the heart of the outbreak - political leaders said they hope health authorities will let them open schools next week. At least 650 people have tested positive in Italy, almost entirely in the country's productive north, where scientists have been trying to determine just how the outbreak, with no known link to China's massive epidemic, began.
Mongolia president under quarantine
Mongolia’s President Battulga Khaltmaa and other government officials have submitted to a 14-day quarantine after returning home from their visit to China, the state news agency Montsame reported on Friday. Battulga is the first head of state to visit China since the country began implementing special measure to curb the coronavirus outbreak in January.
He arrived in Beijing with Foreign Minister Tsogtbaatar Damdin and other senior government officials on Thursday, and held a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
They were taken into quarantine as soon as they arrived in Mongolia as a precautionary measure, Montsame said.
Two cases in Mexico
Mexico's assistant health secretary announced Friday that the country now has two confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. Hugo Lopez-Gatell said one of the patients is in Mexico City and the other in the northern state of Sinaloa, and neither is seriously ill.
At least five family contacts of the first patient have been placed in isolation. He said one of the men had contact with someone who had traveled to the northern Italian region where there has been an outbreak.
Brazil on Wednesday confirmed Latin America's first confirmed case of the new coronavirus in a man who traveled to Italy this month.
Swiss ban large-scale events
Switzerland on Friday banned large events expected to draw more than 1,000 people as an extraordinary measure to curb the new coronavirus epidemic.
“In view of the current situation and the spread of the coronavirus, the Federal Council has categorised the situation in Switzerland as ‘special’ in terms of the Epidemics Act,” the cabinet said after a meeting.
“Large-scale events involving more than 1,000 people are to be banned. The ban comes into immediate effect and will apply at least until 15 March.” The ban appeared to cover the Geneva Motor Show next week, but a spokeswoman for the Palexpo venue said it had received no information from Swiss authorities and could not comment on whether the car show had been called off.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Switzerland has risen to 15, and more than 100 people are in quarantine, government minister Alain Berset said.
“We have the situation under control, but this can change very quickly,” he said, adding the ban would certainly hit the Swiss economy. As the outbreak spread, the canton of Basel-City put a number of children into a two-week quarantine on Thursday after one of their caregivers tested positive for the virus.
People in Japan's rural north have been urged to stay at home this weekend in a desperate effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak as the country reported two more deaths linked to the illness. The latest cases brought the death toll across the nation from the virus to 10, half of whom are former passengers of a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo.
A British man has died after being infected by the new coronavirus while quarantined aboard a cruise ship near Tokyo, Japan's health ministry said Friday. The unidentified man is the first Briton to die from the illness.
First case in New Zealand
New Zealand health officials on Friday said the country had its first case of the new coronavirus, a person in their 60s who recently returned from Iran. Health officials said the results of a test came through positive on Friday afternoon. The person was being treated at the Auckland City Hospital and the person's household members had also been isolated as a precaution. New Zealand's Ministry of Health said in a statement it was confident the public health risk from the infection was being well managed.
South Korea coronavirus cases surge
South Korea reported 571 new coronavirus cases on Friday, its biggest daily increase in infections that takes its total to 2,337, the largest outbreak outside China where the epidemic began late last year.
The coronavirus crisis has spooked South Korea’s financial markets, led Hyundai Motor to shut down one of its plants and prompted boy band BTS to cancel its April concert.
More than half of South Korea’s cases are linked to a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southeastern city of Daegu and a hospital in Cheongdo county.
Outbreak ‘getting bigger’ after Nigeria case - WHO
Coronavirus outbreak is “getting bigger”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday after Nigeria confirmed sub-Saharan Africa’s first case, reiterating its warning that the virus could reach most “if not all countries”.
WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a Geneva news briefing that it was looking into reports of some people getting re-infected, which would include reviewing how were tests taken, adding: “But in general a person who had coronavirus infection would be immune at least for a while.” A WHO mission to Iran - which has now reported 388 cases and 34 deaths - is supposed to start early next week, and is still being put together, he said.
No more holy water
Cologne Cathedral, one of Germany’s main religious sites, is emptying its basins of “holy water” to prevent the spread of infection. Priests will also stop placing communion wafers in believers’ mouths. The exceptional move comes as religious leaders struggle around the world to welcome the faithful while protecting against disease. Some Italian churches shut their doors for Ash Wednesday this week. And in the US, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is postponing a key April meeting of its top global leaders.
Dangers of amusement
While parts of China had already banned fun events, the damage to the rest of the entertainment world is spreading as fast as the virus. Disney closed its parks in Tokyo for two weeks, after doing the same in Shanghai and Hong Kong. South Korea exports entertainment worldwide but is shutting down its own shows, as K-pop superstars BTS called off an upcoming concert series in Seoul. Green Day did the same. The Emirates Bicycle Tour was cancelled.
Charged for lying to doctors
A Chinese couple was charged in court on Friday with allegedly providing false information to Singapore’s government and obstructing efforts to trace the spread of the virus. According to court documents, the man is accused of lying to a Health Ministry officer about their movements and whereabouts from January 22-29. They now face up to $10,000 in fines each if convicted under the country’s Infectious Diseases Act. Health officials depend heavily on information provided by infected patients to prevent further spread of the virus. The couple sat emotionless during Friday’s hearing, and left wearing sunglasses and masks.
- with inputs from agencies