coronavirus: global updates

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Tourists visit the Church of the Nativity, revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in Bethlehem, occupied West Bank [AFP]

US government committed $8.3bn emergency funding package to fight coronavirus

The US Congress has voted for a $8.3bn emergency funding package to fight the coronavirus.

The move comes as the country reported a total of 11 deaths, including one in California, the first outside Washington state. More cases have also emerged in New York and Los Angeles with California declaring a state of emergency.

Meanwhile Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and South Africa have marked their first cases of coronavirus while the biblical Church of Nativity in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank closes due to coronavirus fears.

Globally, more than 95,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the vast majority in China where the virus originated late last year.

California declares state of emergency over virus

California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus after the state  reported its first death from the disease.

Newsom told a media briefing the state had 53 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Australia announces second death; more travel restrictions

Australia says a second person has died from the coronavirus; an elderly woman who was diagnosed with the illness after a worker at the nursing home where she lived was confirmed to have the virus.

Most of Australia’s 52 cases are people from the Diamond Princess cruise ship which was quarantined off Japan, but the country has also introduced travel restrictions with a number of countries.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said non-Australians coming from South Korea would not be allowed to enter the country, while people arriving from Italy would have to go through enhanced screening.

A ban on visitors from China and Iran was also being extended, he said.

Australia’s national carrier has been told to spruce up its cleaning to ensure passengers are better protected from the coronavirus.

The Sydney Morning Herald says Safework NSW issued a notice to the airline on February 26 warning of an “inadequate system of work used to clean planes that may have transported passengers with an infectious disease.”

South Korea cases continue to climb

South Korea has just given its first update of the day on the coronavirus situation there. It’s confirmed 438 new cases taking total infections to 5,766.

The Korea Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention also said three more people died from the virus, bringing the total to 35.

The US has also reported two more cases among the 28,500 soldiers stationed in the country, bringing the total to six.

Iran says deaths reach 107 amid 3,513 confirmed cases

Iran announced 15 deaths and 591 fresh cases in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 107 dead amid 3,513 infected cases across the country, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a televised news conference.

As the Iranian government is engagement in information cover-up, the real numbers could be much higher.

According to Iran’s health minister, Iran will close schools and universities until the end of the Iranian calendar year on March 20 due to the coronavirus.

Kuwait confirms two more cases

Kuwait’s Ministry of Health confirmed two more coronavirus cases, during the past 24 hours.

The ministry said that the two cases came from Iran, bringing the country’s total number of confirmed cases to 58.

Italy versus England Six Nation games postponed

England’s final Six Nations matches against Italy in Rome next week has been postponed amid fears over the coronavirus outbreak, tournament organisers have said.

“Six Nations notes the decree issued by the Italian Government with respect to all upcoming sporting events in that country,” organisers said in a statement. “The decision has now been taken to postpone the three matches between Italy and England (Men’s, Women’s, and U20) set to take place over the weekend of 13th/14th/15th March, with the intention to reschedule them at later dates.”

Italy may raise support spending to five billion euros

Italy’s government is likely to increase to five billion euros ($5.57bn) the value of measures to help the economy withstand the largest outbreak of coronavirus in Europe, Deputy Economy Minister Laura Castelli said.

“It is likely that the government will reach [five billion euros]” Castelli said in an interview with daily Il Messaggero, adding that she thought it was “necessary to raise the bar as much as possible”.

Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri has promised tax breaks and other measures for the affected sectors worth 3.6 billion euros.

A government source told Reuters on Wednesday this may be raised to 4.5 billion, or 0.25 percent of GDP.

Netherlands braces for return of 900 students from Italian alps

Dutch health authorities said they were scrambling to put together a plan for the return of a group of about 900 students from a skiing trip in the north of Italy.

The trip by the youngsters, mostly in their early 20s, to the heart of Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak has stoked fears of a wider spread of the virus in the Netherlands, where the number of confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday stood at 38.

“We are working very hard to prepare for all different scenarios,” local health authorities spokeswoman Hanneke Mensink told Reuters news agency.

These scenarios might include plans to monitor or test all students involved after their return.

Germany reports 109 new cases in a day

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 109 within a day, a public health institute said.

As of Thursday morning, there were 349 cases across all but one federal state, up from 240 on Wednesday morning and compared with 262 on Wednesday afternoon, the Robert Koch Institute said.

The hardest-hit state is the western region of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous, with 175 cases.

Switzerland reports first death

A 74-year-old woman in western Switzerland has died after contracting the new coronavirus, the country’s first death, regional police said.

The woman had been hospitalised in the canton of Vaud since Tuesday, police said. She was a high-risk patient suffering from chronic disease, authorities said.

Slovenia confirms first case

Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec said the first case of COVID-19 has been detected in Slovenia.

Slovenia’s Health Minister Ales Sabeder said the person detected with the virus had traveled from Morocco to Italy and then to Slovenia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina reports first two cases

Bosnia and Herzegovina has reported its first two cases of coronavirus, confirmed by the health ministry of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska entity.

Alen Seranic, the regional health minister said at a press conference that a middle-aged man, who returned to Bosnia a month ago from Italy where he works, has been infected with coronavirus as well as his child.

The man was confirmed earlier this week as having coronavirus. He’s currently in stable condition and is being kept in isolation in hospital in the city of Banja Luka.

Health authorities will test school children who have had contact with the infected child, as well as all other members of the infected family, he said. The school will be closed for the next couple of days.

Greece reports tenth case, shuts schools in three areas

Greece reported its tenth case of coronavirus. The person had recently returned from a religious pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt, health authorities said.

Greece on Wednesday ordered schools to be closed and banned public gatherings in three districts in western Greece from Thursday as a precaution after a person from the region tested positive for coronavirus.

The ban was in effect for 48 hours and subject to review, authorities said.

Thailand reports four more cases

Thailand has diagnosed four more cases of coronavirus; an Italian man who arrived in the country on March 1, a Thai man who returned from Italy, a Chinese man who was in transit from Iran to China and was found to have the virus during screening. and a Thai student who had come back from Iran.

The country now has 47 confirmed cases.

New Delhi primary schools closed

All government-run primary schools in the Indian capital will remain closed until March 31 as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, the local education minister said.

Bethlehem church to close

The Church of Nativity in the biblical city of Bethlehem, revered as the birthplace of Jesus will close after a suspected outbreak of the coronavirus, a church official said.

The Palestinian health ministry called for local churches, mosques and other institutions to close after a number of suspected cases at a hotel in the Holy Land city of Bethlehem.

US, Israel cancel military exercise

The US and Israel have scrapped the remainder of their joint military exercise Juniper Cobra 20 over the coronavirus outbreak, the US European Command based in Germany said.

“The decision is in alignment with recent Israeli Ministry of Health guidelines on COVID-19, and a precautionary measure to ensure the health and safety of all participants,” USEUCOM said in a statement.

Egypt reports first case in an Egyptian national

Egypt recorded the first coronavirus case in an Egyptian national who had returned from Serbia via France, a joint statement from the health ministry and the World Health Organization said.

The North African country registered two cases before in foreigners, one of whom recovered and was released from quarantine.

South Africa third sub-Saharan country to confirm coronavirus case

South Africa’s announcement that a case of coronavirus has been confirmed in the country makes it the third sub-Saharan country to report the infection.

Senegal has reported one case, while Nigeria has reported four, to date. Sub-Saharan Africa is considered high risk for an outbreak because of its close ties to China and weak health care infrastructure in many countries.

Authorities said the infected 38-year-old man had recently traveled to Italy with his wife. A “tracer team” has been identifying anyone who had contact with the man and his personal doctor has self isolated, South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases tweeted.

South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has said citizens currently quarantined in China will be returning home in the next few days.

Mkhize made the announcement shortly after the country confirmed its first case of the virus, a man who had recently travelled to Italy with his wife.

UN concerned over Cyprus crossing closure

The United Nations has voiced concern over the disruption caused by the Republic of Cyprus government’s temporary closure of several crossings on the divided island’s ceasefire line over the coronavirus crisis.

“Following the decision to temporarily close four crossing points along the buffer zone, UNFICYP is concerned by the ongoing disruption caused to people on both sides,” the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus said in a statement.  “While the UN supports all effective measures to address any potential public health emergency, it is imperative for the two sides to coordinate closely in order to provide a comprehensive response.”

The island is divided between the Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member state, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognised only by Ankara.

China, Hong Kong cautiously getting back to work

China coronavirus deaths exceed 3,000

China’s National Health Commission has just released its daily update on the coronavirus.

It reported 139 new cases on Wednesday, compared with 119 the day before. That brings the total number of cases on the mainland 80,409.

The number of deaths rose to 3,012 after an additional 31 people died from the illness.

Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan has been giving us an update from Hong Kong where she says there are now more people on the street, and more traffic than there have been in weeks.

China is also trying to get its people back to work after a prolonged shutdown to stop the virus from spreading.

The strict quarantines appear to be paying off in terms of lower numbers of daily confirmed cases, but there was a slight uptick in the data released on Thursday – 139 new cases, compared with 119 the day before – and the country has revised its counting methods a few times.

“China is far from out of the woods,” Gopalan says. “It’s changed the way it tallies the numbers several times. At the moment, it does not include those who are asymptomatic – people who have the virus but are not showing symptoms.”

More than 290 million students missing school: UN

More than 290 million students have been affected by school closures across 13 countries to curb the coronavirus outbreak, the UN said.

“While temporary school closures as a result of health and other crises are not new unfortunately, the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education,” Audrey Azoulay, director general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said in a statement.

source: Aljazeera and global media

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