The coronavirus (COVID-19), is spreading more quickly in Europe, the Middle East and other parts of the world than in China where the virus first emerged in the central city of Wuhan at the end of last year.
The number of new infections inside China was for the first time overtaken by fresh cases elsewhere on Wednesday, with Italy, Iran and South Korea emerging as new hotspots for COVID-19.
The disease was also detected for the first time in Estonia, Denmark, Georgia, Brazil, Pakistan, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Romania and Algeria.
Iran’s VP infected
Masoumeh Ebtekar, vice president of Iran for Women and Family Affairs, has tested positive for the coronavirus. On Tuesday, Iranian officials confirmed that Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi had been infected and was under quarantine.
Mojtaba Zonnour, head of Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Relations Commission says he is infected with COVID-19. Zonnour, who is also a deputy from the country’s virus-hit Qom city, said in a video message that he is currently in quarantine.
Meanwhile, Iran has cancelled Friday prayers in the capital, Tehran, and elsewhere in the country. The move came in response to a drastic jump in the number of confirmed cases from 100 to 245, with 26 deaths. Iran also banned Chinese citizens from entering the country.
COVID-19 epidemic at a ‘decisive point’: WHO
Speaking to journalists at a daily briefing in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesussays said the coronavirus epidemic was at a “decisive point”.
Despite having a pandemic potential, the spread of the coronavirus can be contained “if you act aggressively now … you can prevent people getting sick, you can save lives.”
Tedros also warned that no country should assume it will not get cases. “That could be a fatal mistake,” he said.
Tokyo Olympics on schedule
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is “fully committed” to holding the Tokyo Olympics on schedule despite the coronavirus outbreak, President Thomas Bach told Japanese media in a conference call. The event is scheduled to begin on July 24.
Two more people have died in Italy from coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 14, the Civil Protection agency said in a statement.
The agency chief, Angelo Borrelli, had earlier told reporters that officials were still seeking confirmation that coronavirus was responsible for the latest two deaths.
The number of confirmed cases has risen to 528 from some 420 announced on Wednesday, the vast majority in northern Italy.
Israel confirms third case
Israel’s health ministry said a man who returned from travel in Italy has tested positive for COVID-19.
The man returned from Italy four days ago and tested positive after developing symptoms, the ministry said. It is the country’s third coronavirus case.
Greece reports two new cases
Greece has reported two new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to three. The health ministry said one of the cases concerned a relative of a 38-year-old woman in the northern town of Thessaloniki, the first confirmed case reported in Greece.
The woman had recently returned from Milan in northern Italy.
Japan to close schools
Japan will close schools nationwide to help control the spread of the new virus, the government announced. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he asked all elementary, middle and high schools to remain shut until spring holidays begin in late March.
The measure affects 12.8 million students at 34,847 schools nationwide, the education ministry said.
Switzerland confirms three new cases
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Switzerland has risen to four, the country’s health authority said. In the western canton of Geneva one person was tested positive for the virus while it was also confirmed in a couple in the southeastern Alpine canton of Grisons, it added.
“All three patients are isolated in the hospital. Their condition is good,” the Federal Office of Public Health said.
Britain reports two new cases
The United Kingdom said two additional patients tested positive for the new coronavirus, which was passed on in Italy and Spain’s Tenerife. The latest cases raised the total number of infections to 15,
A Korean Air flight attendant who worked on flights between Seoul and Los Angeles subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus, South Korea’s disease control agency and sources said.
The flight attendant worked on Korean Air’s flight KE017 from Seoul’s Incheon airport to Los Angeles on February 19, and on the return flight KE012 on February 20, Yonhap news agency and other media reported. A South Korean official familiar with the case verified those flight details.
“She took a flight after showing symptoms, and we are investigating people who had contact with the employee on the flight,” the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said in a statement.
Estonia confirms first case
Estonia has confirmed its first coronavirus case in a man who returned from Iran, Russian news agencies TASS and Interfax reported on Thursday, citing Estonian health authorities.
“We are talking about a permanent resident of Estonia who is not a citizen of Estonia,” Interfax reported, citing Estonian Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik.
“According to my information, he is a citizen of Iran,” Interfax cited Kiik as telling Estonian TV.
Denmark confirms first case
Denmark has confirmed its first coronavirus infection in a man who returned from a ski holiday in northern Italy, the Danish health authority said. The man was put in isolation in his own home.
North Korea extends school breaks
North Korea has postponed the new school term to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, reports said, the latest measure as the ill-equipped country ramps up efforts to prevent a devastating outbreak.
Pyongyang has not reported a single case of the COVID-19.
“School breaks for students have been extended as a preventive measure against the infection,” the Korean Central Broadcasting Station reported, according to Yonhap news agency.
IMF, World Bank consider ‘virtual’ Spring Meetings
Growing concerns inside the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank about the spread of the new coronavirus have prompted the institutions to consider scaling back their Spring Meetings in April or hold them by teleconference, people familiar with the discussions told Reuters.
The institutions’ April 17-19 Spring Meetings are scheduled to bring some 10,000 government officials, journalists, business people and civil society representatives from across the globe to a tightly packed, two-block area of central Washington DC. – Al Jazeera