Coronavirus spreads in Middle East and beyond: Live updates
New infections and deaths reported around the world, with Brazil confirming its first case in Latin America.
The coronavirus is spreading in the Middle East, Europe and other parts of the world, as Brazil confirmed its first case in Latin America, while parts of China begin to lower their emergency response level as the number of new cases reported there continues to slow.
More deaths have been reported in Iran and Italy, while South Korea on Wednesday said an 11th person had died of the disease there. Globally, at least 80,000 people have been diagnosed with the illness.
Here are the latest updates:
Wednesday, February 26
Coronavirus cases in Italy rise to 400 as regional official self-isolates
The number of people infected with coronavirus in Italy has risen to 400, according to civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli, while the death toll remains at 12 people.
Italy is struggling to contain the virus in its northern region; several European countries have reported their first cases in recent days, many of which stemmed from people who had visited Italy.
Meanwhile, Attilio Fontana, president of Lombardia Region, has gone into self-isolation after one of his staff tested positive. He announced the news live on Facebook.
Qatar orders evacuation of its citizens and Kuwait’s from Iran
Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani ordered the evacuation of Qatari and Kuwaiti citizens from Iran due to the spreading of the coronavirus and its associated disease COVID-19, state news agency reported on Twitter.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran had no plans to quarantine any “cities and districts” in response to the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
The virus had killed 19 people in Iran until now and infected 139 others, the health ministry announced.
Norway detects its first case
Norway’s Public Health Agency said that one person had tested positive for coronavirus and was being kept isolated at home, in what was the country’s first confirmed case.
The person had returned from China late last week, but did not appear ill and was unlikely to infect others, the agency said.
Kuwait sends evacuation plane to Italy
Kuwait Airways has said on its Twitter account it will send a plane to the city of Milan in northern Italy, where the country’s coronavirus outbreak is centred, to evacuate citizens.
Italy has registered more than 400 coronavirus cases and 12 deaths.
Iraq bans public gatherings and travel to 9 countries
Iraq banned all public gatherings and banned travellers from Kuwait and Bahrain from entry, the health minister said, taking the total number of countries on the entry ban list to nine amid growing fears over the spread of the coronavirus.
The nine countries are: China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Italy, Bahrain and Kuwait.
The minister also ordered the suspension of schools and university and the closure of cinemas, cafes, clubs, and other public gathering spots nationwide from February 27 to March 7.
Iran announces domestic travel curbs
Iranian authorities announced that instead of quarantining cities, domestic travel restrictions will be implemented for people with confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus.
Health Minister Saeed Namaki said at a news conference that teams would be located at the entrance of cities “that see a lot of movement”, without naming them, adding that such controls had already started.
The teams will take people’s temperature and “stop those who are infected or suspected of infection”, Namaki said.
All those suspected of being infected with coronavirus would be quarantined for 14 days.
France reports new case, tally now at 18
One more person has been infected with the coronavirus in France, putting the tally at 18 in the country, the French health minister said.
“There is no epidemic in the country, just isolated cases”, Olivier Veran said during a news conference, adding that 15 million protection masks would be made available.
Health ministry director Jerome Salomon added that out of the 18 cases, two people had died, 12 were cured and four were still hospitalised.
Pentagon says it may need additional funding to deal with coronavirus
The Pentagon told Congress it was reviewing the possibility it may need additional funding to deal with the spread of the coronavirus, hours after the US military reported a soldier in South Korea had become infected.
“It is spreading and we can’t give you a definitive answer on whether we’ll need additional resources or not,” said Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressing a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.
“We owe you some answers.”
Georgia reports first coronavirus in the country: health minister
Georgia reported the first case of coronavirus in the country, the health minister said.
Ekaterine Tikaradze said that a Georgian citizen, who was travelling from Iran, crossed the border from neighbouring Azerbaijan.
“He was immediately taken to hospital from the border checkpoint,” Tikaradze said.
Finland reports second case
A second confirmed coronavirus case has been diagnosed in Finland, health authorities said.
The female Finnish patient had recently visited the city of Milan in Italy.
She is being treated at the Helsinki University Hospital. The woman had a fever but was reported to be doing well and had only been in contact with two other people since arriving back in Finland on the weekend, public broadcaster YLE reported.
Pakistan confirms first two cases
Pakistan’s Health Minister Zafar Mirza confirmed the first two cases of coronavirus in the country.
“Both cases are being taken care of according to clinical standard protocols and both of them are stable,” Mirza wrote on Twitter.
“No need to panic, things are under control. I will hold press conference tomorrow on return from Taftan.”
220/ I can confirm first two cases of corona virus in Pakistan. Both cases are being taken care of according to clinical standard protocols & both of them are stable. No need to panic, things are under control. I will hold press conf tomorrow on return from Taftan.
— Zafar Mirza (@zfrmrza) February 26, 2020
Speaking at a press conference in the southwestern city of Quetta, Mirza said both patients – one in the southern province of Sindh and the second in the capital Islamabad – had travelled to Iran in the past two weeks.
First case of coronavirus confirmed in North Macedonia
A woman who recently arrived from Italy is North Macedonia’s first confirmed case, the country’s health minister said on Wednesday.
“The patient tested positive for coronavirus … She is the first patient in North Macedonia to have tested positive for this pathogen,” Health Minister Venko Filipce said.
The woman, who sought medical help early on Wednesday, drove to North Macedonia from Italy in a van. All other passengers from the van are undergoing tests, Filipce said.
Ireland vs Italy rugby fixture postponed
The Irish Rugby Football Union said it has postponed the country’s Six Nations fixture against Italy due to the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy, following a recommendation from Irish health authorities.
“We will immediately begin to work with our Six Nations partners to look to reschedule. I would hope to have an update on that in the coming days,” IRFU chief executive Philip Browne told reporters after a meeting with the health minister.
The game was scheduled to take place in Dublin on March 7 with thousands of Italian supporters, many from the regions most affected by the outbreak, expected to make the trip.
New cases confirmed in Germany
Seven new cases were found in Germany across three states, bringing the country’s total to 19.
Two cases were confirmed in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia of a man and his wife. The man, reported to be in his 40s and suffering from a pre-existing health problem, is being treated in an intensive care unit in Dusseldorf.
His wife is a kindergarten teacher. State Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann said the children from the facility had been ordered to stay at home. The couple are believed to have had widespread social contacts over the past two weeks.
Lebanon health ministry confirms second case of coronavirus
Lebanon’s health ministry confirmed the country’s second case of coronavirus and said the patient was quarantined after returning from a religious trip to Iran.
The woman arrived in Lebanon last week on the same flight as the first case and had been in quarantine at a Beirut hospital since showing symptoms on Monday, the ministry statement said.
Brazil confirms first case in Latin America: health ministry
Brazil’s government confirmed that a 61-year-old Brazilian man who travelled to Italy this month has Latin America’s first confirmed case of the contagious new coronavirus.
“We will now see how this virus behaves in a tropical country in the middle of summer, how its behaviour pattern will be,” Brazil’s Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said in a news conference.
The Brazilian man spent two weeks in northern Italy’s Lombardy region on a work trip, where he contracted the contagious virus, the health ministry said.
Read more here.
China to Russia: end discriminatory measures against Chinese
China’s embassy in Russia has demanded authorities in Moscow end what it said are discriminatory anti-coronavirus measures against Chinese nationals.
The complaint, detailed in an embassy letter to the city’s authorities, deplored what it called “ubiquitous monitoring” of Chinese nationals, including on public transport.
Authorities in Moscow have also been carrying out raids on potential carriers of the virus – individuals at their homes or hotels – and using facial recognition technology to enforce quarantine measures.
The letter followed unconfirmed local media reports that Mosgortrans, which runs Moscow’s vast bus, trolleybus and tram networks, had told drivers to try to identify Chinese passengers and inform police of their presence.
Coronavirus cases emerging faster outside China: WHO
There are now more new cases of the coronavirus reported each day outside China than inside the hardest-hit country, the World Health Organization said.
“Yesterday, the number of new cases reported outside China exceeded the number of new cases in China for the first time,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told diplomats in Geneva, according to a written version of his speech.
The UN health agency put the number of new cases in China at 411 on Tuesday and those registered outside the country stood at 427.
Japan to continue Olympics planning amid doubts
Japan vowed to continue preparing to host this year’s Olympics after an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member suggested the Games could be cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto dismissed the member’s comment, saying at a parliamentary session that was not “the IOC’s official view”.
“All we can do is to prepare to host the Games with peace of mind and to be recognised by the IOC,” she said.
UK conducts coronavirus testing as part of early warning plan
The UK has started random tests for coronavirus on flu patients to have an early warning system in place in case the outbreak becomes more widespread, a senior health official said.
“We’re heightening our vigilance because of the apparent spread of the virus in countries outside mainland China,” Public Health England’s medical director, Paul Cosford, told BBC radio.
In the UK, random tests for the virus will be carried out at 11 hospitals and 100 general medical offices on people who have flu symptoms including a cough, plus shortness of breath and a fever.
Trump will hold White House news conference on Wednesday
US President Donald Trump said he will hold a news conference on the coronavirus at 6pm (23:00 GMT) on Wednesday, as infections surge globally and US health officials urge Americans to prepare for it to spread in the US.
Abu Dhabi’s Etihad suspends flights to Hong Kong on low demand
Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways has suspended flights to Hong Kong until March 28, the airline said, citing a drop in demand.
The UAE suspended all flights to mainland China, except Beijing, on February 5 amid the coronavirus outbreak there.
Etihad has suspended flights to Hong Kong since February 21, it said.
Japan reports one new death
A man in his 80s died in Tokyo after catching the new coronavirus, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK said, citing a government source.
This was Japan’s third fatality from the coronavirus, excluding those who were on the cruise ship “Diamond Princess”, NHK said.
Guests in locked down Tenerife hotel to stay in isolation for 14 days
Hundreds of guests who have been locked down in a hotel on the Spanish island of Tenerife after Italian tourists staying there were diagnosed with coronavirus, will remain in isolation for 14 days, a senior regional government official said.
Two more of the group of 10 Italian holidaymakers tested positive for the infection, but tests on the rest of the group have returned negative, the official, Maria Teresa Cruz Oval, told a news conference.
EU calls for coordinated European response to coronavirus
European Union countries should coordinate their responses to the outbreak of the coronavirus to avoid diverging approaches, the EU’s Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides told reporters.
Speaking at a joint news conference in Rome with the health minister of Italy, Kyriakides said countries should not give in to panic and that the EU would issue information for travellers on the virus.
“All member states need to inform us of their preparedness plans,” she said. “Diverging approaches across the EU should be avoided,” she said, adding the EU executive was ready to coordinate responses.
Austria quarantined 12 people in close contact with a couple who were the country’s first coronavirus cases, one of whom works as a hotel receptionist, the local government in the province of Tyrol said.
Read more here.
Greece confirms first coronavirus case
Greece has confirmed its first coronavirus case, the health ministry said.
The patient is a 38-year-old Greek woman who had travelled from an area of northern Italy, said Sotiris Tsiodras, a representative of the Ministry of Health.
12th person dies in northern Italy of coronavirus
A 12th person has died in northern Italy of coronavirus, while the number of confirmed cases has risen to 374, an increase of more than 50 on the day before, the head of the Civil Protection agency said.
Angelo Borrelli told reporters that the dead man was 69. All those who have died so far in the outbreak, which came to light on Friday, have been elderly and most had underlying health problems.
Singapore charges man with coronavirus for lying
A Chinese man infected with coronavirus and his wife have been charged in Singapore for lying to health authorities investigating whether they had passed the illness to others, officials said.
The couple faces a fine of up to $7,150 and six-month imprisonment if convicted.
Iran reports 19 new deaths
Iran’s state television says 19 more people were killed by the coronavirus and the total number of confirmed cases rose to 139.
The official cited in the report urged limiting nonessential travel.
Kuwait says more coronavirus cases confirmed, tally now 25
Kuwait’s health ministry said that the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus in the country rose to 25 after 13 more cases were confirmed, the state news agency reported.
The ministry also confirmed in a statement that the new cases were all Kuwaiti citizens “who are related to travel to Iran”.
France reports first French national death
France reported three new infections, including one new death, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 17 and the death toll to two.
The latest victim was a 60-year-old man, the first French national to die of the disease, the health ministry said. The first victim was an 80-year-old Chinese tourist, who died in mid-February.
Read more here.
Bahrain reports three new cases
Bahrain’s number of infections rose to 26 after three Bahraini women who arrived from Iran were confirmed to have the coronavirus, according to the health ministry.
About 3,000 Hong Kong people seek help in Hubei
The Hong Kong government says it has been contacted by about 3,000 Hong Kong people in mainland China’s Hubei province, including 532 in Wuhan city, seeking help.
It says those affected in Hubei need to register by February 28 in order to return to Hong Kong.
Mongolia restricts travel from capital to curb risks
Mongolia, China’s landlocked northern neighbour, will restrict travel from its capital Ulaanbaatar to other provinces until March 3 in a bid to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, a minister said.
Mongolia, which has not reported any infections, has suspended all flights from Japan, adding to previous restrictions on flights from China and South Korea.
It will also take precautions with other flights from Europe, Russia, Turkey and Kazakhstan, said Enkh-Amgalan Byambasuren, the country’s road and transportation minister, during a briefing.
Algeria reports first coronavirus case
A 61-year-old Italian, who arrived in Algeria on February 17 from Italy, tested positive for the coronavirus, Algeria’s health ministry said. He is being monitored in the southern Ouargla area, the ministry said.
The country is not contemplating a suspension in flights, but will reinforce controls on planes from Italy, the ministry said.
Egyptair postpones resumption of flights to China
Egyptair said it would postpone the resumption of its flights to and from China because of the new coronavirus outbreak.
The Egyptian national airliner first suspended its flights to China on February 1, and had said it would resume services from Thursday.
South Korea reports 115 more cases
South Korea has reported 115 new cases, bringing the total to 1,261, according to Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
KCDC said the 169 coronavirus cases announced earlier included a US soldier.
Guatemala on ‘maximum alert’ over coronavirus
Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei has declared a “maximum alert” over the possible arrival of coronavirus to the country, saying medicinal supplies are fully available at local hospitals.
Giammattei also confirmed that there are no infected cases at the moment, although he said a family was in quarantine after returning to Guatemala from South Korea.
“Better safe than sorry,” Giammattei said.
Philippines imposes travel ban on S Korea’s North Gyeongsang
The Philippines barred travellers from South Korea’s coronavirus-impacted North Gyeongsang province from entering the country.
Philippine presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told a media briefing the government would also conduct a risk assessment within 48 hours to determine whether the travel ban should be expanded to other parts of South Korea.
El Salvador to bar entry of foreign nationals from Italy, S Korea
El Salvador will bar the entry of foreign nationals arriving from Italy and South Korea to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that has killed more than two thousand people worldwide, President Nayib Bukele said.
Salvadoran nationals and diplomats who arrive from these countries will have to spend 30 days in quarantine, Bukele wrote on his Twitter account.
Iran: Virus could spread across the nation
Iran’s Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told reporters in Tehran the outbreak was “likely” to spread to unaffected provinces “soon”.
He said Iran hoped to contain the virus before the Persian new year, which starts on March 20.
“A more pessimistic prospect is that we will reach the containment phase by late April,” Jahanpour added.
Kazakhstan to suspend Iran flights
Kazakhstan plans to suspend flights to and from Iran from March 1 because of the spread of coronavirus in the Gulf nation, Kazakhstan’s chief sanitary doctor, Zhandarbek Bekshin.
Kazakhstan will also reduce the number of flights to and from South Korea, another country with a large number of coronavirus cases, he told a briefing.
No coronavirus in Turkish citizens returning from Iran
Turkish citizens returning from Iran amid coronavirus fears tested negative for infection, said the health minister.
A total of 132 Turkish citizens arrived in Ankara, the Turkish capital, on Tuesday after they were evacuated from Iran where 15 deaths from coronavirus were confirmed so far. The evacuees are in 14-day quarantine in a hospital.
Addressing a news conference, Koca said there are no confirmed coronavirus cases in Turkey so far, thanks to effective measures against the disease.
UAE says it is equipped for ‘worst-case scenarios’
The United Arab Emirates, which reported 13 cases, is “well prepared and equipped for the worst-case scenarios” as the coronavirus spreads in the Middle East, an official from the UAE National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority told Reuters news agency.
The UAE has enough facilities to quarantine patients and relevant bodies have been instructed to undertake “complete surveillance of all people entering the country”, the official said.
Pompeo: Iran may have suppressed vital COVID-19 details
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that Iran may have covered up information about the spread of coronavirus there, and accused China of mishandling the epidemic through its “censorship” of media and medical professionals.
“The United States is deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country,” Pompeo told reporters as Iran’s coronavirus death toll rose to 16, “all nations, including Iran, should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations.”
Qatar Airways lowers Iran flight frequency
Qatar Airways said on Twitter that it has lowered the frequency of its flights to Iran.
Brazil reports first possible case of coronavirus
A 61-year-old man from Sao Paolo who recently returned from Italy is being tested for coronavirus, Brazil’s health ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
The man travelled to Lombardy – the epicentre of the Italian outbreak – from February 9 to 21- and had developed symptoms including a sore throat and fever, the ministry said.
If the case is confirmed, it will be the first in South America.
Thailand reports three new coronavirus cases
Thailand reported three new cases of a coronavirus on Wednesday, taking total infections to 40, a health ministry official said.
Two of the new patients, all Thai nationals, had returned from holidays in Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido and came into contact with the third, said Sukhum Kanchanapimai, permanent secretary at the ministry.
Dozens allowed off Japan virus-hit ship have ‘symptoms’: minister
Dozens of passengers who were allowed off the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship have developed symptoms including fever and will be asked to take tests for the coronavirus, Japan’s health minister said on Wednesday.
Some 970 passengers were allowed off the boat last week after testing negative for the virus, but several have subsequently been found to be carrying the disease.
The ministry found “45 people had certain symptoms,” health minister Katsunobu Kato told parliament.
“We asked all of them [who have symptoms] to see a doctor and to take tests,” Kato said.
Kuwait bans foreign ships – except oil tankers – to fight virus
Kuwait has barred foreign ships, except those carrying oil, from several countries to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to a notice seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
The notice, dated February 25, banned vessels from and to South Korea, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Iraq.
US military reports South Korea virus case
An American soldier stationed in South Korea has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, commanders said on Wednesday.
The 23-year-old man is the first confirmed infection among the 28,500 US soldiers stationed in the south.
Based at Camp Carroll, 30 kilometres (19 miles) north of Daegu, the serviceman is in self-quarantine at his home, US Forces Korea said, adding it was conducting “contact tracing” to determine whether other soldiers had been exposed.
Japan’s Hokkaido prefecture seeks closure of schools
The board of education in Japan’s northern Hokkaido prefecture will seek to close all public elementary and junior high schools for a few days starting Thursday, Kyodo news agency reported on Wednesday.
Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island, has confirmed a total of 35 coronavirus cases – the highest number outside Tokyo. A number of them have been discovered in people who have links to schools, including students, teachers, school bus drivers, and cafeteria workers.
San Francisco declares emergency over coronavirus
San Francisco declared a local emergency over the coronavirus on Tuesday, despite having no cases, as US officials urged Americans to prepare for the spread of infections within their communities.
California’s fourth-largest city said it made the move to boost its coronavirus preparedness and raise public awareness of risks the virus may spread to the city.
“Although there are still zero confirmed cases in San Francisco residents, the global picture is changing rapidly, and we need to step-up preparedness,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement.
Kuwait reports three new coronavirus cases, taking total to 12
Kuwait announced three new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with the infections occurring among people returning from Iran.
The new cases bring the total number to 12 in Kuwait, according to a statement from the health ministry.
Mainland China reports 406 new cases of coronavirus, 52 more deaths
Mainland China had 406 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the country’s National Health Commission said on Wednesday.
That brings the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 78,064.
The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China rose to 2,715 as of the end of Tuesday, up by 52 from the previous day, the commission said.
The central province of Hubei, epicentre of the outbreak, reported 401 new cases on February 25 compared with 499 cases a day earlier.
South Korea-China flight quarantined: State media
A flight from the South Korean capital of Seoul to the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing was quarantined on Wednesday after three passengers were found to have a fever, state media reported.
The plane was carrying 94 passengers.
Three more Chinese regions lower emergency response level
China’s northwestern regions of Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang and the southwestern province of Sichuan have lowered their emergency response level after assessing that health risks from the coronavirus outbreak have receded, state media reported.
China has a four-tier response system for public health emergencies that determines what measures a region will implement, with Level I the most serious.
Sichuan announced it would adjust its measures from Level I to II, while Inner Mongolia will change from Level I to III, state news agency Xinhua said on Wednesday.
Xinjiang, home to China’s Muslim Uighur population, also reduced its emergency response level from I to II after reporting no new cases for seven consecutive days, the official local news portal, the Tianshan Daily, said on Wednesday.
Air Canada extends flight suspension to Chinese cities, citing virus
Air Canada announced on Tuesday it was extending its suspension of flights between Canada and the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai until April 10 because of the coronavirus.
Flights from Canada to the two cities were temporarily suspended from January 30 until the end of February after the foreign ministry advised Canadians against non-essential travel to China.
Air Canada usually offers direct flights from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver to Beijing and Shanghai.
The airline also extended the suspension of daily flights to Hong Kong from Toronto until April 30, citing “reduced market demand”.
Flights to and from Taipei “remain unaffected,” according to the company’s website.
Malaysia brings home more citizens from Wuhan
A second group of Malaysians arrived home on Wednesday morning after the country ran a second evacuation flight from Wuhan.
The 66 Malaysians and their family members were met at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and will remain in quarantine for 14 days.
— KKMalaysia🇲🇾 (@KKMPutrajaya) February 25, 2020