Turkey, Pakistan and Armenia have closed their borders with Iran as the latter reported more coronavirus infections and deaths, prompting neighbouring Afghanistan to also introduce travel restrictions.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping described the outbreak as the “largest public health emergency” since the founding of communist China as the death toll on the mainland reached 2,442, with 76,936 infections reported as of Sunday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was concerned about a rise in cases with no clear link to China – where the virus that is officially known as COVID-19 was first detected in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province in late December – and called for urgent funding to support countries with weaker health systems.
Here are the latest updates:
Click here for February 24 updates.
Sunday, February 23
Austria stops train from Italy due to suspected infections
Austria denied entry to a train from Italy on suspicion that two of the travellers might be infected with the coronavirus, Austria’s Ministry of the Interior said.
“Tonight a train on its way from Venice to Munich was stopped at the Austrian border,” the ministry said.
The Italian State Railways informed Austrian train operator OBB that there were two people with fever symptoms on the train, the ministry’s statement said.
The train was now waiting at the Brenner Pass on Italian territory. “The further procedure is currently being discussed together with Italian authorities.”
France, EU partners to discuss coronavirus: French health minister
French Health Minister Olivier Veran said he would talk to his European counterparts soon to discuss how to best cope with a possible epidemic risk in Europe as Italy battles with an explosion of cases.
“Tonight there is no epidemic in France. But there is a problematic situation at the door, in Italy, that we are watching with great attention,” Veran told a news conference.
“The situation tonight is very evolutive at [the] international level,” he added. “I spoke with my Italian and German counterparts … We have agreed to have a discussion between several European health ministers, probably next week, to assess how we can together face epidemic risk,” he said.
Giorgio Armani shows collection behind closed doors
Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani radically altered his autumn/winter2020 presentation at Milan Fashion Week due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, informing guests that the show would take place “behind closed doors”, rather than in front of a live audience as usual.
Models walked down the catwalk in an empty theatre, while the show was live-streamed on the brand’s website and social media channels.
Several Chinese designers have been absent from fashion-month presentations in London, Paris and now Milan as quarantines have left entire collections trapped in China and industry professionals unable to travel.
The National Chamber of Italian Fashion has estimated that some 1,000 editors, models, buyers and other fashion industry workers would be forced to miss fashion month entirely.
A third person dies in Italy
A third person infected with the coronavirus died in Italy, a regional official said, as the government struggles to contain an outbreak of the illness in the north of the country with more than 130 cases reported since Friday.
Lombardy regional councillor Giulio Gallera told reporters the victim was an elderly woman from the province of Cremona, in the Lombardy region.
The woman was also suffering from cancer, Gallera said.
Four test positive in England after cruise ship evacuation
Four passengers tested positive for the coronavirus in England after being evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, Chief Medical Officer of Public Health England Chris Whitty said in a statement.
“The virus was passed on in the Diamond Princess cruise ship and the patients are being transferred from Arrow Park to specialist NHS infection centres,” the statement added.
The new cases brought the total number of cases in the United Kingdom to 13.
Read more about where cases have been confirmed here.
Update on #coronavirus:
Four further patients in England have tested positive for #COVID-19. The virus was passed on in the Diamond Princess cruise ship and the patients are being transferred to specialist NHS centres.
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) February 23, 2020
Armenia to ‘suspend communication’ with Iran for two weeks
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that the country will “suspend communication” with Iran for two weeks in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
In a post on Facebook, Pashinyan said Armenia would close its border with Iran and halt air transport.
He added that Armenia’s Coronavirus Prevention Commission would meet on Monday.
Bank of Japan says it is fully prepared to take action over virus impact
The Bank of Japan (BOJ) will ensure it is fully prepared to take necessary policy action as it scrutinises developments on the impact of coronavirus, its governor Haruhiko Kuroda said.
The BOJ is ready to ease without hesitation if needed, but sees no need to consider specific action now, he told a press briefing in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
The epidemic has cast a cloud over global recovery prospects, overshadowing a meeting of finance leaders of the G20 countries.
EU sees ‘no need to panic’ over Italy outbreak
The European Union sees “no need to panic” over a coronavirus outbreak in Italy that has already killed two people and infected more than 100 in the country, the bloc’s economic affairs commissioner said.
“The EU has full confidence in the Italian authorities and the decisions they are taking,” Paolo Gentiloni told reporters after a meeting of the G20 financial leaders in Saudi Arabia.
“We share concern for possible contagion (but )there is no need to panic.”
Coronavirus puts global recovery at risk: IMF to G20
The coronavirus could put an already fragile global economy’s recovery at risk, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) head told G20 finance ministers and central bank governors.
“The projected recovery … is fragile,” IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said at a meeting in the Saudi capital.
“The COVID-19 virus – a global health emergency – has disrupted economic activity in China and could put the recovery at risk,” she said.
Local authorities to close Venice Carnival early
The Venice Carnival festival closed on Sunday, several days ahead of schedule, because of the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy, the head of the Veneto region said on Sky TG24 television.
“From this evening, we plan to stop carnival and all sporting activities until March 1,” regional President Luca Zai said in announcing a series of measures to combat the spread of the virus.
The carnival was due to close on Tuesday after opening on February 8.
Pakistan closes border with Iran
Pakistan announced it is closing its border with neighbouring Iran after Tehran announced eight deaths from the coronavirus.
“We have closed our border with Iran because of the reports of coronavirus there,” said Ayesha Zehri, a senior government official in Pakistan’s southwest Balochistan province, which borders Iran.
Afghanistan bans travel to and from Iran
Afghanistan suspended air and ground travel to neighbouring Iran, where millions of Afghan refugees live, as fears grow across the region over a jump in new coronavirus infections.
“To prevent the spread of the novel #coronavirus and protect the public, Afghanistan suspends all passenger movement (air and ground) to and from Iran,” the office of the National Security Council of Afghanistan said in a statement on Twitter.
Turkey to ‘temporarily’ close border with Iran
Turkey announced it will “temporarily” close its land border with neighbouring Iran as alarm grows over a rise in new coronavirus infections.
“We have decided to shut the land border temporarily after an increase in the number of cases in our neighbour Iran,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters.
He added that air traffic would be unilaterally halted from 20:00 local time (17:00 GMT).
Jordan bars entry to citizens from China, Iran, South Korea
Jordan said it would bar citizens from China, Iran and South Korea from entering the kingdom in a bid to prevent the outbreak spreading.
The minister of state for media affairs, Amjad Adayleh, said the decision was part of “pre-emptive measures … following the rise in cases of coronavirus in South Korea, Iran” and China.
Xi: Coronavirus ‘largest public health emergency’ in communist China’s history
The coronavirus epidemic that has killed over 2,400 people is communist China’s “largest public health emergency” since its founding, President Xi Jinping has said.
“It has the fastest transmission, widest range of infection and has been the most difficult to prevent and control,” Xi said at a meeting on curbing the epidemic, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
He added it was is necessary to learn from “obvious shortcomings exposed” during China’s response, a rare acknowledgement by a Chinese leader.
Third passenger on cruise ship in Japan port dies
A third passenger from the quarantined Diamond Princess died after contracting the coronavirus, the national broadcaster NHK has reported, citing the health ministry.
A man in his 80s became infected on the cruise ship and was treated at a hospital, according to NHK. A man and a woman in their 80s, who had both been passengers on the ship, died last Thursday.
Number of infections jump to 602 in South Korea, with five deaths
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Korea jumped to 602 and the death toll rose to five, authorities said.
More than half the new cases are linked to a church in the southeastern city of Daegu after a 61-year-old woman known as “Patient 31” who attended services there tested positive for the virus last week. The woman had no recent record of overseas travel.
Israel may quarantine 200 South Korean visitors in army base: Report
Israel may quarantine some 200 visitors from South Korea in a military base south of Jerusalem over coronavirus worries, Israel’s Ynet news site reported on Sunday.
Israeli officials had no immediate comment on the report. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said separately on Sunday that he had ordered South Korea and Japan to be added to a list of Asian countries to which travel to and from Israel was being barred.
Authorities to suspend Venice Carnival
Venice’s famous carnival is going to be suspended due to the new coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy, the President of the Veneto Region Luca Zaia has said.
“We have to adopt drastic measures,” Zaia told reporters. When asked if that included calling off the carnival in Venice, which runs until Tuesday, he replied that measures about to be announced will cover that “and even more”.
Iran says 43 infected, with eight deaths
Iran has confirmed 15 new cases of the new coronavirus, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on state TV, adding that the death toll has reached eight in the country.
“So far, we have 43 infected cases and the death toll is eight,” said Kianush Jahanpur.
Iran’s health minister says virus came from China travel
Iran’s health minister said travel from China brought the coronavirus to the Middle Eastern country, where it has killed at least seven.
Saeed Namaki told state TV that the virus came from China to the holy city of Qom in central Iran. He said that one the Iranian dead from the virus was a merchant who regularly shuttled between the two countries using indirect flights in recent weeks after Iran stopped direct passenger flights to China.
Italy coronavirus cases rise to more than 100
The number of cases of COVID-19 in Italy’s Lombardy region rose to 89, the governor of the Lombardy Region Attilio Fontana said on Sunday.
That brings the total number of cases in the country to more than 100, Fontana said, speaking on Sky TV.
Iran confirms another death
Iran confirmed a seventh coronavirus death, the head of the Medical Science University in the Mazandaran province, was quoted as saying.
“An Iranian who travelled from Tehran to Tonekabon has died of the new coronavirus,” Abbas Mousavi said, according to Iranian state media.
Israel quarantines pupils who met South Korean tourists
Nearly 200 Israeli pupils were ordered to begin a two-week quarantine after having come into contact with South Korean tourists who contracted the coronavirus, the education ministry has said.
Israeli authorities urged people who might have encountered the tourists to self-quarantine, including 180 pupils and 19 staff from three separate schools who it said they had had close contact. Eighteen members of the tour group, who visited Israel and the Occupied West Bank from February 8 to 15, tested positive for the virus after returning home, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
South Korea raises disease alert to highest level
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said the government will raise the country’s disease alert by one notch to the highest level in a bid to contain a surge in new coronavirus cases.
New coronavirus cases in the country jumped by 123 to 556 on Sunday and the death toll rose to five, according to the Korea Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.
Iran accuses foreign media of using virus to ‘discourage’ voters
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused foreign media of trying to use a deadly outbreak of coronavirus in Iran to “discourage” people from voting in a general election.
“This negative propaganda began a few months ago and grew larger approaching the election and in the past two days, under the pretext of an illness and a virus, their media did not miss the slightest opportunity to discourage people from voting,” said Khamenei on his official website. “(Our enemies) are even opposed to any election by the Iranian people”.
South Koreans who visited Israel, Occupied Palestinian territories test positive
Nine South Korean nationals who visited Israel and the Occupied West Bank from February 8 to 15 tested positive for coronavirus, prompting Israeli and Palestinian authorities to order those who came in contact with the tour group to self-quarantine for two weeks.
“All the test results of the workers in restaurants that were frequented by Korean tourists in Jericho were negative – that is, they do not carry the virus. We ask anyone that has interacted with the South Korean tourist group to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days, and not use any public transportation and avoid being in public places,” the Palestinian ministry of health said in a statement.
Japan minister apologises after woman who leaves ship tests positive for virus
Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato apologised after a woman who was allowed to leave a coronavirus-infected cruise ship docked near Tokyo tested positive for the virus.
The woman in her 60s disembarked the Diamond Princess in Yokohama on Wednesday following a two-week quarantine on board, but was found to be positive following another test in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo.
China reports 648 new cases of coronavirus, but infections outside Hubei falling
China reported a rise in the number of new confirmed cases of coronavirus, but the number of fresh infections and deaths outside of the epicentre of central Hubei province continued to fall.
Nationwide, the number of new cases rose to 648 as of Saturday, from 397, the previous day, National Health Commission said. That brought the total number of confirmed cases in China to 76,936.
The number of new cases outside of Hubei stood at 18, the lowest since the commission started publishing nationwide data a month ago.
The nationwide death toll rose by 97 to 2,442, but only one new death was outside of Hubei.
South Korea reports two more deaths, 123 new cases
South Korea reported 123 more coronavirus cases, taking the nationwide total to 556, as well as two additional deaths, bringing the death toll to four.
Among the latest cases, 75 were connected to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southern city of Daegu, the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.
China’s Hubei province reports 96 new virus deaths
The death toll in China from the coronavirus epidemic rose past 2,400 on Sunday after 96 more people died in hard-hit Hubei province.
The region also reported 630 new confirmed cases, bringing the total within China to about 77,000.
Three Serie A matches suspended due to virus deaths in Italy
Three Serie A football matches scheduled for Sunday in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto were suspended after the deaths of two people infected with COVID-19.
On orders from the Italian government, the games called off were: Inter Milan vs. Sampdoria, Atalanta vs. Sassuolo and Hellas Verona vs. Cagliari.
Three other matches in Genoa, Turin and Rome on Sunday are going ahead as scheduled.
Italy towns close down as virus cases jump to 79
Italy’s prime minister announced a ban on people entering or leaving new coronavirus hotspots as the number of confirmed infections rose sharply to 79, in an outbreak that has claimed two lives in the country.
“In zones considered hotspots, neither entry or exit will be authorised without special permission,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said during a news conference, adding that businesses and schools in the areas would be closed.
The Italian outbreak is concentrated in the northern region of Lombardy. Officials raised the total confirmed cases to 79, from an earlier figure on Saturday of 39 in Lombardy, 12 in Veneto and 3 in Rome.