Coronavirus Updates: WHO Chief to Young People: ‘Virus Could Kill You’
The world of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology is just one of the many sectors to have been hit by the deadly coronavirus. The outbreak has already had an adverse effect on this nascent sector. Stay up-to-date on the latest developments as the world fights back against the virus.
Latest Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases (March 20, 09:16 UTC)
Total Confirmed: 244,523
Mainland China: 81,202
Total Deaths: 10,031
Total Recovered: 86,032
Source: Johns Hopkins CSSE
British Pubs Close as WHO Warns Young People ‘You’re Not Invincible’
UTC 17:43 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that “pubs, theaters, cinemas, restaurants, gyms, cafes and bars” will close indefinitely as of March 21 in the United Kingdom.
Health authorities added that children should be discouraged from playing together, and advised that “unnecessary social contact” should be avoided.
The government also pledged that it would support workers’ salaries for people who are not working due to coronavirus-related office closures.
And the WHO today held an emergency meeting, with the organization’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stating,
“I have a message for young people. You are not invincible. This virus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you.”
Iranian Holidaymakers Flaunt Warnings, Spanish Death Toll Rises Past 1,000 Mark
UTC 13:23 As Iranian New Year approaches, authorities fear that the coronavirus could spread yet further in the country as holidaymakers ignore travel warnings.
Iranian police say that more than 1.2 million people have set off for towns on the Caspian coastline with “tens of thousands of cars” heading for holiday sites, despite instructions to stay at home. Authorities say 149 people have died from the virus in Iran in the past 24 hours.
In Spain, the death toll has risen to 1,002, with 235 deaths in the past 24 hours. The national health ministry says there have been 19,980 confirmed cases in the country, with over 33% of cases detected in Madrid.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Andrew Cuomo the governor of New York, says that authorities in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will order the closure of all barbershops, nail parlors, hair salons and tattoo shops from this weekend.
#BREAKING: NY, CT, NJ, and PA will temporarily close all barber shops, nail & hair salons, tattoo shops, & similar… https://t.co/id9zifFBOq— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo)
City in Ecuador Turns Away Spanish Plane
UTC 09:41 There were extraordinary scenes in Guayaquil, Ecuador, whose mayor sent pickup trucks and police cars onto an airport runway yesterday to prevent a plane – bound from Spain – from landing.
The special Iberia flight had been sent as part of a Spanish plan to repatriate 190 EU citizens in Ecuador.
A member of the Iberia flight crew posted dramatic pictures from the cockpit.
Alarming incident at Ecuador's International Airport in Guayaquil today as an @Iberia flight from Spain is denied l… https://t.co/DBc550NkEV— Camila (@camilateleSUR)
Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez has stated that the country will do its utmost to ensure the European citizens can be airlifted out of the South American country.
And sports enthusiasts in Europe are finding their options increasingly limited.
French authorities have banned cycling and ordered runners and walkers to limit the distance they move from their homes to 2km, with durations of no longer than 20 minutes.
EU Wants to Buy Ventilators, Protective Gear with USD53m Fund
UTC 04:55 The European Union says it wants to create a USD 53.4m stockpile of health-related equipment to help member states. The money will be used to buy face masks, protective clothing and ventilators.
Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, has announced that China has offered to send 2 million surgical face masks to the EU, as well as 50,000 coronavirus test kits.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s head negotiator for Brexit has tested positive, he revealed on Twitter.
I would like to inform you that I have tested positive for #COVID19. I am doing well and in good spirits. I am foll… https://t.co/xhANY9RX0O— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier)
In the United States, the head of the FDA has stated that it could take 12 months to roll out a vaccine.
And in Brazil, CNN Brasil reports that the government has ordered the closure of the nation’s land borders to foreigners, although airports remain open.
America’s Military Moves, First Death Reported in Russia
UTC 13:37 The American military has stopped sending troops to Afghanistan and is now quarantining 1,500 troops and civilians who recently arrived in the country order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, per AP.
Russia has also reported its first coronavirus-related death.
Meanwhile, in Spain, the death toll has rocketed up to 767, a day-on-day rise of 209.
Per Bloomberg, health authorities in Italy claim that a staggering 99% of coronavirus fatalities were suffering from existing illnesses. Italy’s fatality rate is a whopping 8%, dwarfing figures in nations such as South Korea,where the death rate is closer to 0.7%.
The country’s Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, and his government are also considering measures that would see them extend the existing nationwide lockdown further than the original target of early April.
And international health experts warn that Africa could be last in line for a coronavirus outbreak, and “lacks the resources” to cope with the pandemic.
Chinese Cases Slow as Rest of World Struggles
UTC 09:37 Chinese health authorities have reported that there have been no new domestic cases of the coronavirus diagnosed in the past 24 hours – although over 30 cases have been diagnosed in travelers entering the country.
Citizens in the city of Wuhan have been allowed to leave their homes for the first time since a lockdown was placed on the coronavirus epicenter – although they are being asked to refrain from gathering in crowds and are being let out in “staggered” patterns, per a BBC report.
Elsewhere, the picture is not as bright. Both Australia and New Zealand say they will close their borders to non-residents and non-citizens before the end of this week, with Australia also slashing interest rates to 0.25%.
The death toll in Indonesia is escalating fast, rising climbing from five casualties on Tuesday to 19 on Wednesday and 25 on March 19.
And in Europe, Dáil Éireann, the Republic of Ireland’s parliament, is expected to rush through emergency legislation today that will allow the state to order and enforce lockdowns and “forcibly detain” citizens who flaunt quarantine regulations.
Fatalities Rise at Record Rates in Italy – Report
UTC 17:28 Italy has reported a 24-hour death toll of over 400 – the highest for any country in any single day since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
But figures may even be higher than that. In the Lombardy area, Reuters say sources believe 319 people coronavirus patients have died in a single day.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that schools in England will also close on Friday this week for all but delivery service, health and emergency service workers, following similar announcements from the governing bodies of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, AP reports that United States President Donald Trump has announced that he will enact a law that will enable the government to issue commands to the private sector in response to the outbreak.
English Schools Struggle to Stay Open as Scottish, Welsh Schools Close
UTC 13:32 Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has stated that all nurseries and schools in Scotland will close at the end of the week.
Welsh schools are also set to close, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated that a wider UK decision on schools will be made “imminently.”
The news came after Scotland announced its third coronavirus-related death. Religious services and a number of stores have been suspended all across the British Isles.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the ILA Berlin Air Show, one of the aviation industry’s largest fairs, has been canceled. The event was slated to take place in mid-May.
Infections have slowed in China, however, per the country’s health authorities. Just over a dozen new infections were reported in the past 24 hours, with travelers to the country now accounting for more coronavirus cases than local infections.
France: Rise in Infection Rate, Death Toll
UTC 8:51 French health chiefs say that the number of cases in the country has risen to 7,730, with a rise of over 1,000 in the past 24 hours, with 175 deaths now reported, 27 of which came in the past 24 hours.
In a press briefing, Jérôme Salomon, the head of the French health authority, explained that 7% of cases were under 70 years old, and said almost 700 people were now in intensive care – although 600 people have been released from hospital in the past day.
The government has announced it will increase fines on those refusing to stay at home by almost 100 euros.
Meanwhile, Taiwan is set to ban all foreign nationals from entering the country after 22 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours. The ban will be effective from March 20.
Western European Death Toll Rises
UTC 18:58 Italy’s death toll has risen by 16% in the past 24 hours, with over 2,500 people succumbing to the coronavirus. And French health authorities have reported 27 new deaths, taking the country’s total to 175.
Elsewhere in Europe, death tolls also continue to rise in the United Kingdom, where 67 fatalities have now been confirmed. A slew of chain stores, including Nespresso, have decided to close their outlets in many parts of Europe.
In Denmark, restaurants, bars, cafes, night clubs, gyms and cosmetics services have been told to close their doors for at least two weeks. Public gatherings of more than 10 people have been banned.
And in the Middle East, Jordanian ruler King Abdullah has approved a law that will afford the government sweeping emergency powers – allow the prime minister the ability to create curfews, control citizens’ movements and shut businesses.
Iran Lets Prisoners “Temporarily Leave” as Kazakh Lockdown Begins
UTC 11:41 Iran says it has “temporarily freed” a total of 85,000 prisoners, per its judiciary, which claimed that jail-related infections were on the rise.
A spokesperson stated,
“About 50% of those released are security-related prisoners [political prisoners]. And, in the jails, we have taken precautionary measures to deal with the outbreak.”
A number of major museums in London, including art galleries the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern, have closed, while in Kazakhstan, two cities have been placed on lockdown.
Reuters reports that restaurants have been closed and people told to stay at home in the capital Nur-Sultan and Almaty, the nation’s biggest city.
Chinese Province Will Isolate Travellers, Washington & Beijing Play Blame Game
UTC 09:17 With infections slowing in China, the tables are turning – with the coastal province of Shandong announcing that people arriving from overseas will be placed in quarantine for 14 days, per a Reuters report.
Some 20-30 cases have been reported in the nation in the past 24 hours.
Meanwhile, American President Donald Trump has sparked outrage in China with a tweet where he labeled COVID-19 as “the Chinese virus.”
“The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!”
The move comes just over a week after a Chinese foreign ministry official accused the United States military of releasing the virus in Wuhan.
The WHO has advised governments to avoid using terms such as “the Wuhan virus” or using other geographical terms to descriptions of COVID-19.
G20 to Hold Emergency Summit to Discuss Pandemic
UTC 19:51 Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says that the Saudi crown prince has agreed to convene an extraordinary summit of the G20.
World leaders will discuss ways to create a coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic. Sánchez says that Saudi Arabia, which currently has the presidency of the G20, agreed to the meeting during a call.
Earlier today, the G7 issued a joint statement that read,
“We are committed to doing whatever is necessary to ensure a strong global response through closer cooperation and enhanced coordination of our efforts. While current challenges may require national emergency measures, we remain committed to the stability of the global economy.”
American authorities have recommended that citizens self-isolate wherever possible, warning that a recession is coming.
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron has chastised people who ignored government pleas for citizens to stay indoors. Macron ordered citizens to stay at home unless it becomes strictly necessary to leave the house.
He also asked companies to ensure they allow employees to work from home.
Middle East Prepares for Lockdown as Thai Holiday Cancelled
UTC 11:15 Lebanon has announced plans to shut down its biggest international airport in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus. Beirut International Airport is set to close on March 18 until “at least” March 29, leaving non-nationals desperate to board outbound flights.
The nation has joined a host of other Middle Eastern states in closing down restaurants, malls and a large range of public services closed.
Citizens across the region have been told to “stay at home, except in extreme circumstances.”
Meanwhile, health officials in Thailand say they have diagnosed 33 new coronavirus cases, making for a national total of almost 150.
The country’s government is set to cancel New Year celebrations on the holiday of Songkran (April 13-15). The nation’s cabinet will likely decide tomorrow whether or not to close schools and universities, as well as restaurants and bars.
French Health Official Says Nation Is ‘Struggling’ to Contain Virus
UTC 08:30 France will become the latest European country to place its citizens under a partial lockdown to fight the spread of the coronavirus, per a Reuters report.
Speaking on radio station France Inter, French health chief Jerome Salomon said the nation was “struggling” to contain the spread of the virus, with many in Paris heading out to crowded public spaces over the weekend, despite official warnings advising them to stay at home.
“A lot of people have not understood that they need to stay at home. And the low level of adherence to this advice means we are not succeeding in containing the outbreak of this epidemic.”
Health authorities in the country reported that the French death toll has now risen to 127, with more than 5,400 infected.
Elsewhere, Honduras has enacted a partial lockdown, after six coronavirus cases were diagnosed in the country. Per Reuters, public service officials have been sent home, and transport restrictions have been imposed.
Ireland Hires New Police Officers to Fight ‘Looting’ Threat, EPL Suspended
UTC12:30 Ireland will swear in 325 trainee police officers in an effort to enforce the country’s partial lockdown – and prevent looting amid food supply fears.
The country’s police commissioner Drew Harris stated,
“People need to remain calm about the food supply. The fear of looting should not arise. We’ve had no looting incidents yet. People have been calm and well-mannered in terms of their shopping. We are there but that’s primarily to provide reassurance and help with traffic flow.”
Reporters at a news conference stated that they had been ordered to wash their hands and keep a distance of around 1.5 meters away from the commissioner and his aides.
Meanwhile, across the sea in England, football authorities have postponed EPL and English Football League matches until at least early April.
And Michelle O’Neill, the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, has urged the British government to announce the “immediate closure of schools and colleges” in an attempt to slow down the rate of coronavirus infections.
Kenya Reports First Case, Bans Public Gatherings
UTC 08:58 The coronavirus has spread to East Africa, with a woman in Kenya testing positive for the virus.
The country’s health minister, Mutahi Kagwe, told reporters that the woman who had recently returned from a visit to the United States, and had also traveled via the UK.
Kagwe added that the government had responded by banning public gatherings, sports events and open-air religious services.
In Asia, markets continued to slide, and Nepal has closed off access to the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest.
Elsewhere, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stated that “non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people” will be banned as of next week.
And in the UK, the manager of EPL side Arsenal, Mikel Arteta, has tested positive for the coronavirus. England international and Chelsea FC footballer Callum Hudson-Odoi has also been diagnosed with the virus. Chelsea and Arsenal’s scheduled matches this weekend have been postponed, and EPL chiefs are holding an emergency meeting.
Professional rugby matches in France have also been canceled.
Philippine Capital Manila Placed on 1-Month Lockdown
The president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte has placed Manila, the nation’s capital, on lockdown-style quarantine, according to reports.
Duterte says, per ABS-CBN News, that the measures will be effective until at least April 14.
The president is quoted as stating,
“It’s a lockdown. There is no struggle of power here. It’s just a matter of protecting and defending you from [the coronavirus].”
The president stated that all land, domestic air and sea travel to and from the Metro Manila area would be prohibited during the period. Schools and universities have also been canceled until April 12.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the Scottish parliament is set to ban gatherings of 500 people or more people next week, says Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Sturgeon added that schools should refrain from sending pupils and staff on overseas school trips.
And in England, the Elections Commission has asked the government to postpone the country’s forthcoming local elections.
We’ve written to the UK Government to recommend that the May polls be postponed until the autumn as a result of the… https://t.co/H5fwyc8Kvy— Electoral Commission (@ElectoralCommUK)
Elections in England and Wales are slated for May 7 in 118 English local councils, with mayoral and police commissioners also set to be elected on the same day.
Ireland Orders School Shutdown as Spanish Football Matches Called off
UTC 12:18 The Republic of Ireland has become the latest European nation to shut down its schools.
The country’s leader Leo Varadkar held a press conference to announce that all schools, colleges and childcare facilities in the nation will close from tomorrow until at least March 29.
Varadkar also stipulated that indoor gatherings of 100 people or more and outdoor gatherings of 500 or more people would be outlawed.
However, he said that public transport would not be restricted and that stores would not be ordered to close.
43 cases have been reported in Ireland, with 1 death.
In Italy, only food retailers have been allowed to stay open.
The virus is continuing its spread across Europe, with cabinet ministers in Spain and the UK testing positive. The entire Spanish cabinet is now set to be tested for the virus.
Also in Spain, all football matches in La Liga, the top division, have been suspended for at least two weeks.
2,277 cases have so far been reported in Spain.
EU Leaders Flummoxed by Trump Move, WeChat Users Get Creative to Spread Virus News
UTC 09:10 Senior figures in the EU appear to have been stumped by the United States President Donald Trump’s decision to ban visitors from mainland Europe for the next 30 days.
Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, took to Twitter to claim the EU was planning to “assess the situation.”
Trump excluded the United Kingdom – which currently has 459 confirmed cases – from the ban.
Elsewhere Iceland’s health ministry has released information about its 90 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. It says it has successfully traced 35 of these infections to citizens who have traveled to Northern Italy, along with 29 from Austria, four from Switzerland and one from Asia.
And per Buzzfeed, WeChat users in China are taking inspiration from Star Trek in a bid to avoid censorship – and spread information from an interview with whistleblowing medic Ai Fen, the director of the emergency department at Wuhan Central Hospital who attempted to issue warnings about the virus and containment efforts in December last year.
Buzzfeed recounts that WeChat users are now “rewriting [the transcript of the interview] backward, filling it with typos and emojis, sharing it as a PDF, and even translating it into fictional languages like Klingon.”
Virus Given ‘Pandemic’ Status, Spreads Across Europe
UTC 16:51 The WHO has officially labeled the coronavirus a “pandemic.” At a press conference, the WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated,
“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.”
“Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change the WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn’t change what the WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.”
Meanwhile, the virus continues its spread across Europe, with Ukraine the latest country to announce school closures and ban larger social gatherings. In Sweden, health authorities have announced the country’s first coronavirus-related death. The country has 460 confirmed cases of the virus.
And in the UK, Scottish health officials say that they have carried out over 2,000 tests and have identified 36 cases – an increase of nine in the past 24 hours.
Turkey has also announced its first coronavirus case in the past few hours.
Record Number of New Infections, Deaths in Iran
UTC 11:45 Iran’s Health Ministry has stated that the country has reached another grim milestone, with a new record daily death toll of 63 in the past 24 hours, along with 958 new infections. The mortality rate in the country, per official figures, is now around 4%.
The current total number of official coronavirus cases in Iran stands at 9,000, with 354 deaths and just short of 3,000 recoveries.
The ministry said that says numbers were “likely to fall next week.”
Meanwhile, Belgium has reported its first coronavirus-related death, and in the UK, the country’s health minister has tested positive for the disease.
Michael Gove, the British Cabinet Office minister, told journalists in the country that planned post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and the EU will likely be suspended due to coronavirus fears.
The talks had been slated to begin early next week.
Bank of England Cuts Interest Rates as Sporting Events Called off
UTC 07:35 The UK’s central bank, the Bank of England, has announced that it has cut its base rate by 0.5% (from 0.75% to 0.25%) as part of emergency measures aimed at mitigating the economic impact of the coronavirus.
In an official announcement, the bank said the move “help UK businesses and households bridge the economic disruption likely to be associated” with the virus.
The world of sport has been thrown into chaos, meanwhile, with three Formula One team members testing positive for the virus, with one diagnosed at trackside in the Australian Grand Prix. The Bahrain Grand Prix, the next on the F1 calendar, will be held behind closed doors, with the Chinese Grand Prix – slated for April – already postponed.
The EPL has announced that a fixture between current league champions Manchester City and London’s Arsenal has been called off after the owner of a rival club was diagnosed with the virus. The match was due to be played this evening.
Olympiacos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis, 52, tested positive for the coronavirus not long after a recent match Olympiacos match against Arsenal. A number of Arsenal players have since been placed in quarantine – as well as executives who sat in the directors’ box with Marinakis at Forest’s recent match against Millwall in the English Championship.
Italian Prisoners Riot as Virus Death Toll Climbs
UTC 18:01 Prison riots have broken out in Italian jails, with 11 inmates reported dead. The government's coronavirus-related lockdown has extended to prisons, with restrictions placed on the movement of inmates of the country’s jails.
The coronavirus-related death toll in the country has shot up from 168 to 631, per reports from the Italian Civil Protection Agency.
And the total number of cases in Italy has now risen by almost 11% in the past 24 hours, climbing from 9,172 to 10,149.
Meanwhile, city authorities in Berlin have ordered concert halls, opera houses and theaters to close until at least April 19.
And the head of the Polish military, Jaroslaw Mika, has tested positive for the virus after visiting a division of the German army, per a statement from the Polish defense ministry.
Mika and his aides have all been placed in quarantine.
German Health Minister Says ‘Rise in Number of Infections’ Likely
UTC 11:25 Germany has reported its first two coronavirus-related deaths – two individuals aged 78 and 89 years old.
In an article published by Bild, German health minister Jens Spahn stated,
“We are expecting a rise in the number of infections, and we will continue to face further restrictions in our day-to-day lives.”
1,295 people in the country have now been tested positive for the coronavirus.
The country could be on the verge of an Italy-style shutdown, with sporting events now set to take place behind closed doors.
A match in the Bundesliga between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Köln will be played in an empty stadium, per the DFL, German football’s governing body.
Meanwhile, Samoa and the Marshall Islands have become the latest countries to ban German citizens and travelers who have been to Germany recently.
Russia, Liberia and Uganda have previously imposed rules on visitors from Germany – requiring that they spend 14 days in quarantine upon arrival.
Italy Lockdown Begins, But Cautious Optimism Spreads in Asia
UTC 08:18 Italy has begun its first day of a nationwide lockdown – with all 60 million or so of its citizens now restricted from permit-free travel. The government has placed the same conditions previously reserved for its hardest-hit “red zone” areas on the entire country.
Businesses across the country have been told to order employees to stay at home, with all schools, sports events and gatherings canceled.
Other European countries, including Austria and the United Kingdom, have advised their citizens against travel to any part of Italy, which now has more reported cases of the virus than any other nation besides Mainland China. A total of 9,172 cases have been reported in Italy so far, with 463 deaths.
Elsewhere in Europe, 321 cases have been reported in the UK, where a senior health chief warned that “thousands” in the country would likely be infected. Supermarkets in the country have been allowed to receive late-night deliveries on a temporary basis – in an attempt to offset the effect of stockpiling.
However, it was a different story in Asia, where markets stabilized somewhat after a torrid start to the week. Infection rates in China have slowed to under 100 new infections per day, while in South Korea, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told journalists that 131 infections had been confirmed on March 9 – the lowest figure for two weeks.
The death toll in the country currently stands at 54, but Monday’s figures marked a fourth day of consecutive falls in the rate of new infections.
NY Port Chief Test Positive for Virus as More Flights to Italy Canceled
UTC 17:48 New York’s head of ports is the latest high-ranking official to fall ill with the coronavirus. The New York Times reports that Rick Cotton, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has tested positive with the virus.
The state’s governor stated,
“[Rick Cotton] has been at the airports, obviously, when many people were coming back with the virus.”
The American National Center of Immunization and Respiratory Diseases issued a statement, announcing,
“In the United States, as of Sunday evening, 34 states plus New York City and Washington DC have reported more than 500 cases of [the coronavirus]. We’ve also received reports of 19 deaths. Nearly half of the reported cases are in California and Washington. 18 of the deaths are in Washington. The remaining one is in California.”
Meanwhile, budget European airline Ryanair says it will suspend all flights from UK destinations to so-called “red zones” in Italy until at least April 8. The carrier says it will suspend services to and from Bergamo, Milan’s Malpensa airport and the Parma and Treviso airport.
Markets Bomb Across Europe as Iran Death Toll Rises
UTC 11:43 European markets are in freefall as the coronavirus takes a catastrophic toll on the continent’s economy.
While bitcoin and altcoins slumped, conventional currencies also endured a torrid start to the week.
The FTSE 100 index of leading shares in the United Kingdom fell by almost 9%, with Germany’s equivalent, the Dax, down by 7.5% and the FTSE Mib in Italy down 10%.
Elsewhere, sell-offs were rampant, with France’s Cac down almost 8% and Spain’s Ibex down by 7%.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated,
“The spread of the coronavirus has had a vast impact on people’s lives but it also has a vast impact on our economy. We are looking into everything that we can do to help to address the impact on the economy.”
Meanwhile, Iran is still battling one of the worst outbreaks of the virus outside the Far East.
Per Iranian state television, health authorities in the county have confirmed 595 cases in the past 24 hours, with 43 additional deaths.
There have so far been 7,161 total confirmed cases in Iran, where 237 people have died from the virus, and 2,394 have recovered.
‘Unavoidable’ Public Services Shutdowns ahead for France
07:41Four French MPs have been diagnosed with the coronavirus as the government announced emergency measures that will see most gatherings of 1,000 people temporarily outlawed, per AFP.
The country’s president Emmanuel Macron said that school closures and the suspension of public transport services were now “unavoidable.”
Certain gatherings will still be permitted, but it is feared that sports events and other mass gatherings will be put on hold.
The death toll in the country is approaching 20, although over 1,100 cases have been reported – more than any other European nation except Italy.
Health secretary Oliver Veran stated that France was “still in the ‘second stage’, meaning that our priority is to do everything to slow the spread of the virus in our national territory.”
Italy, meanwhile, has rolled out a lockdown not seen in any other country besides China, with millions of people’s movements now restricted. Quarantine violators face hefty fines or even jail time.
Five Dead in Spain as Number of Confirmed Cases Grows
UTC 16:01 Coronavirus cases are spiking all over Europe, with 365 vases now reported in Spain, per health officials in the country.
The Spanish health ministry has stated that five people have so far died from the disease, and added that all of the casualties were either elderly or were suffering from pre-existing conditions.
Per AFP, the highest number of cases has been reported in and near the capital Madrid, where some 137 cases have so far been confirmed.
Two care centers for elderly citizens have been closed down after confirmed outbreaks.
Meanwhile, Lufthansa, Germany’s national airline, says it has slashed its flight capacity by 50% as demand continues to fall.
Iranian Government Says it Could ‘Forcibly’ Restrain Non-compliant Travelers
UTC 12:48 The government of Iranian has warned it is prepared to “use force” to limit travel between cities as the virus has now spread to all 31 of the nation’s provinces.
In a television address, the health ministry spokesperson Kianoush Jahanpour confirmed that the death toll in the country was now 124.
Over 1,230 new cases of the coronavirus have been reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the confirmed total in the country to 4,747.
The country, per news agencies in the country, have been reporting that citizens have been attempting to go on holiday to beaches on the Caspian Sea and other vacation spots after schools and universities across the country were closed.
Over 100,000 people have now been infected with the virus worldwide.
Cases Spike in Norway as Chemicals Firm Closes HQ
UTC 08:45 Health experts in Norway say that at least 90 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the country. Officials say that at least 67 of the people affected had recently returned from Italy – Europe’s worst-hit nation.
The head of the Norwegian health directorate, Bjørn Guldvog, requested that people who have been placed under house quarantine stay at home.
Reuters (via Nasdaq) reports that Norwegian chemicals supplier Elkem has “temporarily closed” its head office in Oslo after an employee tested positive for coronavirus.
The company stated,
"The affected individual is in good health but has been quarantined after dialogue with medical personnel, in line with public health authorities' recommendations.”
Meanwhile, Japanese authorities have canceled a memorial for victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The nation’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been scheduled to speak at the event, slated for March 11.
MEPs Cancel European Parliament Summit as Virus Claims its First UK Victim
UTC 20:08 The European parliament has cancelled its forthcoming session in Strasbourg over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
The parliament’s president, David Sassoli, stated,
“Due to force majeure, I have decided that the necessary security conditions are not in place for the usual transfer of the European Parliament to Strasbourg for the plenary session next week.”
Meanwhile, in the UK, the nation’s health secretary took to Twitter to announce the country’s first coronavirus-related death.
The minister described the first UK casualty, in Reading, in the South East of England, as a person “with underlying health conditions.”
Terribly sad news today that a patient with underlying health conditions has died with coronavirus in Reading. My s… https://t.co/rnowQfVmHN— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock)
Massive Rise in German Coronavirus Cases as HSBC London Offices ‘Deep Cleaned’
UTC 12:05 Coronavirus cases in Germany are skyrocketing, where the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) says that at least 349 people have been infected – with some 110 cases reported within the past day.
Germany started the week with 38 cases.
However, the RKI says that there are likely more infections that have not yet been reported due to the “fluidity of the situation” whereby local health authorities continue to post updates about new coronavirus confirmed cases.
Meanwhile, Reuters says “three sources” have told it that a male member of HSBC’s research department in its London offices tested positive for the virus.
The employee was diagnosed over the weekend and staff who have been in close contact with the man have been told to work from home, said “a source familiar with the matter,” who added that a “deep clean” was also underway in the bank’s offices.
Virus Escalates in Germany as First Swiss Death Confirmed
UTC 09:55 There have now been over 260 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Germany, with cases reported in 15 of the nation’s 16 states.
The BDI, a collective comprising the nation’s biggest industries, stated that the virus was likely to spark a “recession” in Germany.
The BDI, making its Q1 financial report, stated that German economic growth would likely “halt” and “fall victim” to the virus.
Meanwhile, Switzerland has reported its first coronavirus-related death: a 74-year-old woman in the west of the nation, per a Reuters report.
The woman was hospitalized in the Lausanne University Hospital in the Vaud canton on Tuesday, said police.
The police added that the victim was “a high-risk patient suffering from a chronic disease.”
The scheduled Six Nations rugby match between England and Italy, slated to take place in Rome this weekend, has also been called off.
Two Groups of Italian Travellers Quarantined in India
UTC 17:00 In India, two groups of Italian tourists have been placed under quarantine today after 16 of their number tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting authorities to tighten controls.
Per AFP, India’s health minister Harsh Vardhan says that authorities will screen all passengers arriving in the country on all international flights.
The subcontinent has barred travelers from hard-hit countries such as China, Iran, South Korea and Japan.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen from around 50 to 85 in the space of a day – a rise of some 60%.
However, Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, stated that “most [confirmed cases] are associated with known cases or have history of foreign travel” – meaning that British containment efforts were not yet doomed.
Italian School Shutdown Begins as Saudi Arabia Suspends Mecca Pilgrimages
UTC 13:35 Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and his cabinet have announced that every school and university in the country must shut down until the middle of this month at the earliest as coronavirus cases continue to escalate.
The virus has claimed 79 lives in the country, more than any other nation bar China and Iran.
Some 2,500 people are reportedly infected in Italy, and the move comes just under two weeks after the government closed schools and universities in the northern part of the country.
Conte’s government has also quarantined a number of the towns that have been worst hit by the outbreak.
Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia’s rulers have barred citizens from making pilgrimages to sacred Muslim sites in Mecca and Medina – following a previously issued ban on foreign pilgrims wishing to visit the holy sites.
Hong Kongers Begin Leaving Hubei Province as Poland Reports First Case
UTC 08:20 Hong Kong has begun flying home 533 residents who have been marooned in the Chinese mainland province of Hubei since the start of the outbreak.
Per a tweet from the South China Morning Post’s Alvin Lum, 109 passengers boarded a chartered Cathay Pacific aircraft at Wuhan’s airport and flew to Hong Kong.
Passengers’ temperatures were checked prior to boarding, with one showing signs of having a high temperature and prevented from boarding.
Hong Kong’s leader has stated that all 533 residents will be flown out.
Their number includes 14 pregnant women, and over 20 residents in need of medical treatment for conditions including cancer.
Meanwhile, Polish Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski has confirmed that a man hospitalized in the town of Zielona Gora has tested positive for the virus – the nation’s first case.
UN, WHO: ‘Hoarding and Misuse’ of Protective Gear Is Rife
UTC 17:58 The UN has warned that the world is running out of protective equipment that should be used to help fight the coronavirus.
At a UN health agency press conference, officials said that the world was collectively running out of the protective clothing needed to fight the disease, with stocks “rapidly depleting.”
The agency added that panic buying and market manipulation was blighting attempts to fight the disease.
Tedros Adhanom, the head of the WHO, stated,
“We are concerned that countries’ abilities to respond are being compromised by the severe and increasing disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment.”
The WHO chief added that “rising demand, hoarding and misuse” were now rife.
Meanwhile, in Iran, the government is set to mobilize 300,000 soldiers and volunteers to help fight the outbreak, with 23 Members of Parliament diagnosed with the deadly coronavirus.
More Big Events Cancelled as UK Warns of ‘6-month’ Virus Disruption
UTC 13:11 The UN has canceled meetings related to the Commission on the Status of Women summit, which was slated to start on Monday next week in New York.
In an official announcement, the UN stated that a barebones summit will be held, but added,
“No general debate will take place and all side events planned by Member States and the UN system in conjunction with [the event] will be canceled.”
Two weeks of side events had been planned in the American city.
Reuters also reports that the Leipzig Book Fair, one of the world’s biggest literary expos, has also been canceled in as Germany continues to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
A spokeswoman announced that the fair organizers would issue a statement “in due course.”
Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has held a joint press conference with British health chiefs. Johnson stated that the UK government was “prepared for a widespread coronavirus outbreak.”
Health officials added that in a “reasonable worst-case scenario” 1% of coronavirus patients could die from the disease, but conceded that a number of countries may jointly decide to give up on efforts to contain the virus in favor of mitigation efforts.
They added that the UK might be affected by the coronavirus “for another six months,” with its peak still possibly “two or three months” off.
UAE Concerts Called Off Over as Travel Bans Bite
UTC 8:45 Event organizers in the UAE have canceled a number of concerts as the country continues to battle the coronavirus.
Per Reuters, government officials are hoping to limit the impact of the virus in the country after over 1,640 cases were reported in the wider Gulf region, including Iran, where the virus has claimed 66 lives.
The electronica festival Ultra, which was set to be headlined by Major Lazer and Afrojack on March 5 and 6 at Abu Dhabi’s 25,000-seater Du arena has been canceled.
An episode of South Korean K-pop music show Music Bank, which was set to be filmed in front of a UAE audience at Dubai’s 17,000-capacity CocaCola Arena has also been called off.
Concert organizers stated that virus-related travel restrictions meant the events could now no longer go ahead.
Meanwhile, WHO officials have arrived in Iran, one of the countries that have been hit hardest by the virus. The government in Tehran says it is “accelerating measures” to combat COVID-19.
Twitter has told its staff to work from home, but China has reported 125 new cases so far today, its slowest daily increase in around six weeks.
Big Businesses Ready to Bail on Asia as WHO Says ‘Time to Act is Now’
UTC 19:12 Large conglomerates are preparing to fly their staff home from coronavirus-hit hotspots on private airplanes.
The Guardian reports that “businesses and wealthy people” are “chartering private jets for ‘evacuation flights’” out of China and South East Asia.
The newspaper quotes Adam Twidell, the chief executive of PrivateFly, a company that organizes private jet flights, as saying his company had been “inundated with requests from multinational firms” looking to mass-evacuate staff from Asia.
“Over the past few weeks, there’s undoubtedly been a rise in demand for short notice on-demand charter relating to the coronavirus. We’ve had a very significant number of inquiries for group evacuations and from corporates and individuals.”
Meanwhile, the BBC quotes a top WHO official as stating that the world is now in “uncharted territory” as the health crisis escalates.
WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that medics have “never before seen a respiratory pathogen capable of community transmission.”
The WHO chief added,
"There is no choice but to act now.”
America Reports Second Virus Death as UK Formulates Action Plan
UTC 13:20 The deadly coronavirus “may have been circulating for weeks undetected” in the American state of Washington, say United States-based health researchers.
Per AP, health officials in Washington announced that a second person in the state has died from the coronavirus. The person has been identified as “a man in his 70s from a nursing facility near Seattle where dozens of people were sick and had been tested for the virus.”
The man died on Saturday, some 24 hours after America’s first coronavirus casualty – a 50-year-old man who died on Friday
Both men had received treatment at a medical care facility in Kirkland.
Meanwhile, in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to unveil a nationwide action plan for fighting the coronavirus, after a meeting of British political and health authorities concluded today.
The plan will be published on Tuesday.
London’s mayor Sadiq Khan also attended the summit.
G7 to Coordinate Actions as More Iranian Gov’t Official Fall Ill
UTC 09:25 France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire has claimed that G7 member states will take “concerted action” to limit the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Le Maire, speaking on media outlet France 2, said that G7 finance chiefs would hold a conference call on the matter this week, and stated that he had spoken with G7 president and American Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Le Maire also added that Eurozone finance ministers were expected to talk this week, and stated that he intended to speak to Christine Lagarde, the head of the European Central Bank.
Meanwhile, AP reports that one of Iran’s Expediency Council members, Mohammad Mirmohammadi (71), died in a Tehran hospital from coronavirus-related complications.
The country’s Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar and Iraj Harirchi, the head of the government task force charged with fighting the coronavirus, are also both reportedly fighting the virus after becoming infected.
There have been 1,150 reported cases of the coronavirus so far in the Middle East, the vast majority of which are believed to be linked to individuals who have traveled to or from Iran.
Businesses Struggle to Cope as Factories Close in South Korea
UTC 17:05 Companies attempting to return to business as usual are facing fresh setbacks as the coronavirus continues to take its toll on the global economy.
Reuters reports that Hyundai Motor has closed down a factory in Ulsan, South Korea, on Friday after a worker at the plant tested positive for the virus.
The move will come as a heavy blow for the automaker, which has been hit by parts shortages after Chinese factories closed. A number of the company’s Chinese plants had partially reopened in the past week, but the new closure is expected to hit production once again.
Hyundai Motor said,
“The company has also placed colleagues who came in close contact with the infected employee in self-quarantine and taken steps to have them tested for possible infection.”
Samsung has also closed one of its factories in Gumi, South Korea.
Four workers at a UK power plant have placed themselves in self-quarantine after returning from Tenerife and Northern Italy, reports the Bristol Post, while 132 British companies have issued coronavirus warnings, per City AM.
Meanwhile, Chinese companies are turning to blockchain solutions to help fight the disease. More on that story here.
Irish Health Authorities Trace Virus Patient’s Co-Passengers
Health authorities in Ireland have been in contact with passengers who sat on a plane within a two-row radius of a female coronavirus patient.
Per PA Media, a woman from Ireland traveled on a plane bound from Northern Italy to Dublin and later reported her symptoms to workers at a local medical practice. She is believed to have self-quarantined while awaiting lab test confirmation.
The Irish health authority head John Cuddihy, said,
“Each of the stages of this person’s journey have been identified and all relevant contacts in all of those stages of transport have been contacted and traced.”
The country’s chief medical officer told journalists at a press conference in Dublin that Ireland was preparing for an outbreak.
Markets Tumble as Stocks Hit 2008-level Lows, Virus Spreads
UTC 09:25 Stock markets around the world are in free-fall, with analysts warning that stocks are now “entering a period of peak fear.”
BBC Radio 4 reported that this has already been “the worst week for the stock market since the global financial crisis of 2008.”
The Dow is down 9.71% for the year, while the UK’s FTSE 100 index of the biggest British companies has hit its lowest level since the end of 2008 – losing 10% of its value in just five days.
IAG, the operator of British Airways, says that international business meetings are being canceled around the world, driving trade down. Demand for flights to and from Italy and East Asia is also in decline.
JPMorgan has told its staff at offices around the world not to go on business trips unless strictly necessary.
Meanwhile, Lithuania, New Zealand and Belarus have reported their first cases of the new coronavirus. Belarusian authorities stated that its first case is linked with the outbreak in Iran.
In New Zealand, health authorities stated that the patient’s condition was “improving” and said that “close contacts” were “in isolation as a precautionary measure.”
Lithuanian authorities say the country’s first patient is a woman who recently returned from a visit to Verona, Italy.
UK Schools ‘Could Close for Two Months’ as Tourism Sector Braces for the Worst
UTC 18:01 The UK has confirmed another case of the coronavirus after the country’s chief medical officer said that, should larger outbreaks occur, mass gatherings would have to cease, with schools closing for up to two months.
Per the Times, the officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said that if the disease turned into a global pandemic, Britain would be powerless to stop the virus’ spread throughout the nation.
The latest person to be diagnosed with the virus was identified in the town of Buxton, where a medical surgery and a school have now been closed.
Robert Largan, the area’s MP, hit out at news stories that had claimed the town was now “on lockdown,” stating that such reports were “really unhelpful.”
“A primary school and a [medical office] temporarily closing does not constitute a ‘lockdown.’ More responsible journalism please.”
Meanwhile, the virus is set to take its toll on the tourism trade, with thousands of Chinese holidaymakers set to cancel their vacations.
The head of the World Travel and Tourism Council Gloria Guevara told El Mundo,
“It’s too soon to know for sure, but the council has made a preliminary calculation in collaboration with [researcher] Oxford Economics, which estimates that the crisis will cost the sector at least USD 22 billion.”
Abe Closes Down Schools as Virus Claims Fourth Japanese Victim
UTC 10:14 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stated that the government will order all elementary, junior high and high schools in the country to close their doors from Monday next week in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus, per multiple reports.
Abe has also called for major sporting and cultural events to be called off or postponed for the next two weeks. The nation’s top professional rugby and football leagues have responded by canceling matches until at least March 15.
Per NHK, the virus has claimed the life of an 80-year-old man in Hokkaido, bringing the death toll from the virus in the country to four.
Japanese health authorities say 189 people have so far been infected with the virus.
Middle East Nations Hit Hard as Saudis Close Mecca to Pilgrims
UTC 8:45 The Saudi Arabian government has barred non-nationals from entry to its most sacred sites: Mecca, the Kaaba and Muhammad’s mosque in Medina, as fears over the coronavirus escalate in the Middle East.
The sites are holy to Muslims, and are visited by thousands of overseas pilgrims every year.
Per AP, authorities in the country have also placed entry bans on people with tourist visas from a number of countries that have suffered from outbreaks.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that health ministry officials in Kuwait have confirmed that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country has almost doubled, rising from 26 to 43.
The official claimed that all confirmed cases thus far had involved people who recently traveled to Iran.
And Iranian authorities have suspended Friday prayers in mosques across the country, where news agency INLA is reporting the virus has spread to 20 of Iran’s 31 provinces.
France Confirms Two Deaths from 18 Virus Cases
UTC 19:10 French health authorities have confirmed that 18 people in the country have now tested positive for the coronavirus.
Health minister Olivier Veran told journalists that there was “no epidemic” in France, but “only isolated cases.”
The health ministry also confirmed that two of the 18 had died from the illness, with four still in hospital and the remaining 12 recovered.
Veran stated that France would make 15 million face masks available.
The virus has also spread to Georgia and Pakistan, with both nations confirming their first cases on February 26.
Meanwhile, the upcoming Six Nations rugby match between Italy and Ireland has been postponed, per a tweet from BBC journalist Dan Roan.
Most cryptocurrencies have suffered price falls as the virus continues to affect crypto and blockchain companies. Exchange giant Coinbase has become the latest company to issue a set of anti-coronavirus measures.
South Korean Politicians Unlikely to Meet Crypto Law Deadline
UTC 14:25 South Korean lawmakers have postponed several key meetings as the country fights the virus, with draft crypto legislation now being placed on the backburner in favor of emergency health measures.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency insiders are close to admitting defeat, and it appears that FAFT guidelines will not be enshrined into South Korean law in time to meet the June deadline.
More on this story here.
UK Taking Measures as Scotland ‘Expects Outbreak’
UTC 8:48 Britain is on high alert as coronavirus fears spread in the country.
Per the Edinburgh News, the Scottish government’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has held an emergency meeting to discuss preparations.
However, the health secretary Jeane Freeman said the government was already “expecting an outbreak” – although all 412 people tested for the virus in Scotland thus far have shown no signs of infection.
Two testing laboratories have been set up in Scotland’s biggest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Meanwhile, south of the border, a number of English schools have closed for the rest of the week as they conduct “deep cleans.” Students and teachers from a number of schools have recently returned from skiing trips to Northern Italy.
Trinity Catholic College in Middlesbrough admitted that a “small number of staff and pupils” had begun showing flu-like symptoms after returning.
The UK government has updated its guidelines for schools, telling educators if and when they will need to close their doors.
The British stock market is also beginning to suffer. The FTSE 100 index of the most affluent publically listed companies listed in London sank to a 12-month low just after trading began this morning.
First Case Confirmed in Algeria as Kuwait Issues Flight Bans
UTC 20:27 Algeria has confirmed its first coronavirus case. Multiple media outlets have stated that the nation’s health minister appeared on state-run TV to identify the victim as an Italian man who arrived in Algeria on February 17.
The minister said that the man had been placed in quarantine.
Meanwhile, Kuwait has suspended all flights with Singapore and Japan, per a report from state news agency Kuna.
The country’s health and aviation authorities have also closed the country’s doors to flights from Iran, South Korea, Thailand, Italy and Iraq.
Nine people have been taken ill with coronavirus infections, all of whom arrived in the country from Iran, say state media sources.
And the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised UK citizens “against all but essential travel” to the parts of Northern Italy that are currently battling outbreaks.
Four More Deaths in Iran as Health Minister Tests Positive
UTC 12:10 Iran’s deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi has tested positive for coronavirus as the country’s outbreak threatens to spiral out of control.
Multiple media outlets have reported that the semi-official news agency ILNA is now carrying reports that a spokesperson for Iran’s health ministry told state television that the deputy minister had been infected and had been placed in quarantine.
Earlier today, state media reported that four more people had died from the virus, taking the death toll up to 16 – the highest rate reported in any country besides China.
Korean Air Shuts Down Main Incheon Office, E-commerce Operator Tells Staff: Stay at Home
UTC 8:39 South Korean airline Korean Air has closed down its shut its main Incheon International Airport offices after a member of its cabin crew tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that an airline employee had been diagnosed with the disease on February 25.
No information has yet been released about how the employee contracted the virus, or which routes they may have been working on.
Per Asia Kyungjae, Korean Air says that it is operating its own quarantine measures for staff in the wake of the news, and has also asked any of its staff who believe that they are displaying virus-like symptoms to self-quarantine.
The airline has also installed thermal imaging cameras at its biggest business sites, including its Gimpo Airport branch, to check if employees are displaying fever-like symptoms.
Meanwhile, the South Korean e-commerce platform TMON has told its staff to work from home for the remainder of this week. Asia Kyungjae reports that the company has told its staff to use a VPN solution to work remotely.
TMON’s founder operates the heavily backed blockchain startup Terra.
The number of confirmed cases in South Korea currently stands at 977.
European Cases Rise as Nations Struggle to Contain Virus Spread
UTC 17:12 European nations are moving to a state of high alert as Italy struggles to contain the most severe outbreak of the coronavirus outside Asia.
Greece’s National Public Health Organization (EODY) has sent a team to Patras and Igoumenitsa, port towns with regular trade and tourist sea links to Italy.
The EODY team will be tasked with informing the crews of Greece-bound passenger and merchant ships arriving from Italy on virus-preventative measures.
The organization has stated that it is now trying to locate citizens who have recently returned from Lombardy and other parts of Italy that have been affected by the virus.
Hundreds of passengers per day travel between the Italian port of Ancona and both Patras and Igoumenitsa.
Meanwhile, the Romanian news outlet Libertatea states that the Constantin Brancusi University of Târgu-Jiu has suspended all lectures and classes after a student returning from Italy was taken ill with what could be the country’s first suspected case of coronavirus.
And Switzerland’s Arc Info reports that two expat residents of the Vaud canton have been placed under home quarantine by the Federal Office of Health. The office states that the two residents were recently repatriated from Wuhan, China.
Iraq Reports First Virus Case as Iran ‘Cover-up’ Controversy Rages
UTC 12:03 Iraq’s health ministry has confirmed that an Iranian theology student in the Shi’ite Iraqi city of Najaf has tested positive for the coronavirus, the country’s first case.
The ministry stated that the patient had entered Iraq before the government closed down the border between the two countries. Non-Iraqis are currently not barred from entering the country from Iran.
The news comes after ILNA news agency quoted a lawmaker in the country as stating that at least 50 people have died from a virus outbreak in the Qom, Iran, this month.
However, Iran’s government has denied the reports amid claims of a cover-up.
Politician Ahmad Amiriabadi Farahani claims that the death toll is far higher than the official numbers. The government has claimed that there have only been 12 deaths in the country so far, and few than 50 confirmed cases.
The Associated Press quotes an Iranian health ministry spokesperson as stating,
“No one is qualified to discuss this sort of news at all.”
South Korean Crime-busting Taskforce to Fight Quarantine Violations and ‘Fake Virus News’
UTC 8:46 South Korean prosecutors have created a coronavirus taskforce that they say will crack down on unauthorized information leakages, “fake news” distributors, perpetrators of virus-liked fraud cases and quarantine violators.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has spiked in the country, with over 830 cases reported so far.
Per a Seoul Kyungjae report, under the new measures, anyone in the country found to have violated hospital-issued quarantine restrictions could be hit with a USD 2,500 fine.
A large number of cases have been linked by the South Korean media to so-called “patient 31” – a female patient who reportedly left hospital quarantine of her own accord to attend a church service, allegedly spreading the virus to several members of the congregation.
The organizers of the K-League, South Korea’s professional football league, have announced that the season – which was due to start at the end of this month – will be postponed while health authorities fight the virus.
Scores of schools, kindergartens and universities have closed across the country.
Moscow Turns to Facial Recognition Solutions in Bid to Halt Spread of Virus
UTC 17:23 The mayor of Moscow says that the city will use facial recognition technology to ensure people who have been ordered to remain at home or in hotels in the capital remain in quarantine – as Russia continues to battle the coronavirus.
The country’s government has temporarily barred Chinese nationals from entering Russia as part of a nationwide attempt to halt the spread of the virus. Russians who have been allowed to return home have been told they must stay at home, even if they do not display coronavirus symptoms.
In a notice posted on the city’s official website, mayor Sergei Sobyanin claimed that around 2,500 Muscovites had been ordered to quarantine themselves.
“Compliance measures are constantly being monitored with the help of facial recognition systems and other technological solutions.”
Global Business Projects in Danger Everywhere – from Wales to the West Indies
UTC 13:45 Businesses and local governments everywhere are feeling the bite as the coronavirus continues to batter the global economy.
Chinese suppliers have seen production screech to a halt in a number of sectors, with knock-on effects already being felt across the planet.
The Newport Transport authority, in the Welsh city of Newport, has been forced to shelve plans revealed last year to replace much of its bus fleet with electric vehicles.
Transport Xtra reports that Pelican, a company that imports Yutong vehicles to the UK, was “unwilling to discuss future delivery schedules.”
Newport was slated to receive 14 new electric buses in February. Delivery has instead been delayed until April at the earliest.
Meanwhile, in the Bahamas, construction work on The Pointe, a much-vaunted high-end lifestyle and residential development in central Nassau, could also grind to a halt.
The project’s contractor, China Construction America, will likely be hit by travel restrictions placed on nonresidents of The Bahamas who have visited China in the past 20 days, per the Nassau Guardian.
One industry thriving amid the coronavirus chaos is the medical supplies business. The Mehr News Agency in Iran reports that the fourth shipment of coronavirus test kits has arrived in Iran.
According to the Iranian Health Ministry officials, 18 patients have so far been confirmed positive for the virus, which has already claimed four lives in the country.
Hong Kong Citizens Set up Face Mask Factory to Battle Virus
UTC 09:14: Citizens in Hong Kong have decided to take health matters into their own hands – and create their own face mask factory.
Hong Kong has experienced a face mask shortage as coronavirus fears rise – with many supplies running low and opportunist vendors upping their prices in the face of with skyrocketing demand.
Reuters reports (via Yahoo) that Hong Kong residents have had to wait in line for pharmacies to open so they can buy masks and sanitary wipes.
And the same news agency states that a filmmaker named Tang has led a group of citizens in an effort to set up a factory close to the border with mainland China.
Tang is quoted as saying,
“I got angry looking for masks. They are either all sold out, or the masks that are from overseas are sold at an inflated price."
Male Victims Statistically More Likely to Die from Virus
UTC 20:30: Men exposed to the coronavirus have a statistically significantly higher chance of dying, scientists have found.
Per the New York Times, which quotes data from a Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention report, a roughly equal amount of men and women have been infected with the virus. However, while the disease proved fatal for 2.8% of males, only 1.7% of women have died from the illness.
The same media outlet states that recent outbreaks of highly contagious respiratory illnesses have followed a similar pattern.
Per research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, in Hong Kong, more women than men caught SARS in 2003, but the male mortality rate was 50% higher.
MERS infections, too, saw more women survive the disease: 32% of male MERS victims died, compared with 25.8% of women.
Australian, British Airlines Cancel Flights, Prepare for Financial Losses
The airline industry is in turmoil, with carriers around the world issuing a flood of flight cancellations due to the spread of the coronavirus.
Australian carrier Qantas has released an announcement stating that it will reduce its overall capacity to Asia by 16% until the start of June. Services to mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore will be among those most affected.
The carrier says that its Jetstar flights will also be reduced by 14%.
The move could cost the airline some USD 99 million in lost earnings.
British Airways has also announced flight cancellations.
The airline stated,
“In line with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s continued advice against all but essential travel to mainland China, we are canceling flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai until April 17, 2020.”
The UK carrier stated that it would continue to operate flights to and from Hong Kong and would “keep the situation under review.”
Fuel prices are also set to drop internationally as demand plummets.
South Korean President Promises ‘Full Support’ to ‘Crisis’-hit City
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has pledged his government’s “full support” for authorities in the southern city of Daegu, where 31 news cases of the deadly coronavirus have been confirmed in the past week.
Per Newsis, Moon said that he remains “in close contact” with Daegu’s mayor and local authorities.
The city is South Korea’s fourth-largest and has over 2.5 million residents.
The mayor, Kwon Young-jin, told reporters,
“We are experiencing an unprecedented crisis.”
Kwon has issued a decree forcing all of the city’s nurseries, kindergartens and libraries to close down indefinitely, with many shops and restaurants also shutting their doors.
Almost 50 suspected cases have been detected in the Daegu area thus far, with a number linked to a church service that the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) has called a “super-spreading case.”
The total number of confirmed cases in the country currently stands at 82.
The WHO Operations Support and Logistics (OSL) team continues to gather data and assess the needs of its member states, many of which are in need of key items such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). On February 14, the OSL started the dispatch of laboratory COVID-19 testing kits to 56 countries. As of February 17, 37 shipments had been dispatched to 34 countries and three regional offices, the World Health Organization said in its latest situation report.
The WHO has also released guidance on the Rights, Roles and Responsibilities Of Health Workers, Including Key Considerations For Occupational Safety And Health.
Wuhan Gov’t Launches Final-day Push to Identify Virus-hit Residents
UTC 20:23 Government inspectors in Wuhan, China, have donned protective suits and gone door to door in the city as authorities attempt to trace every coronavirus-infected resident, reports the Associated Press.
The city has embarked on a campaign that it hopes will help it identify all virus-carrying people living in the area – which authorities stated would end today.
The news agency quotes Wang Zhong Lin, head of the city’s Communist Party as stating, “This must be taken seriously.”
Wang stated that district leaders would “be held responsible” if more unaccounted-for cases came to light after the latest inspection.
“If the masses cannot mobilize, it will impossible to fight a people’s war against the virus.”
Crypto Exchange Operators Let Workers Stay at Home in Coronavirus-hit Japan
UTC 13:05 A number of leading Japanese firms – including the operators of two of the country’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges – are taking steps to allow their employees to work from home or avoid rush-hour commutes as coronavirus fears deepen
China Tells 3 Wall Street Journal to Leave Following ‘Racist’ Report
UTC 12:25: Chinese authorities have told three Wall Street Journal journalists to leave, claiming that they expressed racist sentiments in their reporting.
A Chinese foreign ministry official named Geng Shuang hit out at the newspaper’s headline: “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.” Geng said the piece had a “racially discriminatory” and “sensational” headline, and condemned the WSJ for failing to issue an official apology.
Geng told media officials, per AFP (via France24), that the reporters’ press cards would be rescinded.
The expulsion comes hot on the heels of a Beijing response to an American decision to place restrictions on Chinese state media organizations operating in the United States. The Chinese government called the move “unreasonable and unacceptable.”
The headline is a reference to the term “the sick man of Europe” – used by journalists in the late 19th century to describe the ailing Ottoman Empire.
Around 200 Shanghai Firms to Receive Emergency, Virus-fighting Loans
UTC 08:57: Shanghai authorities have put together a list of almost 200 firms that will be eligible to receive “millions of dollars in subsidized loans” to cover the financial impact of the coronavirus, per Reuters.
The news agency says it has seen documents and spoken to bankers who confirmed that a number of Shanghai-based companies affiliated to multinationals Unilever and 3M have been included.
The same news outlet quotes a banker who said he had seen the list, claiming there were 194 firms on it, including restaurant operators and real estate developers.
A banker stated, “Every bank in Shanghai is rushing to lend to the companies on its list, to earn political goodwill.”