COVID-19 cases jump in Iran as Italy toll rises: Live updates

Iran announces 205 new infections in last 24 hours as Italian authorities say the number of cases has exceeded 1,000.

Qatar has become the latest Middle Eastern country to report its first case of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, South Korea on Saturday urged citizens to stay indoors as it warned of a “critical moment” in its battle against the coronavirus after recording the biggest daily jump in infections, with 813 new cases taking the tally to 3,150 with 17 new deaths.

Seoul is grappling with the largest outbreak of the virus outside China, the epicentre of the deadly disease. The National Health Commission reported on Saturday at least 47 new deaths, bringing to 2,835 the number of fatalities nationwide among 79,251 confirmed cases.

In Europe, Italy has reported more than 1,000 coronavirus cases and 29 deaths, the most in Europe.

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the spread of the virus is “getting bigger”. More than 85,000 people have been infected worldwide.

Here are the latest updates:

Saturday, February 29

23:58 GMT – Algeria confirms two more cases of coronavirus – health ministry

23:30 GMT – Egypt detects second case of coronavirus – health ministry

A foreigner in Egypt has tested positive for the coronavirus, the country’s health ministry said in a Facebook post.

The person has been taken to an isolation hospital. It has not revealed their nationality.

20:35 GMT – Luxembourg reports first coronavirus case, linked to Italy

Luxembourg announced its first case of infection by the new coronavirus, a man who recently returned from Italy, Health Minister Paulette Lenert told reporters.

The man in his 40s exhibited COVID-19 symptoms “at the beginning of the week” and testing in Luxembourg confirmed the disease, she said.

A second test is being carried out in the Netherlands and the results should be known on Sunday, she added.

The patient was isolated in a Luxembourg hospital and his family members were in quarantine, the minister said.

19:40 GMT – Turkey halts passenger flights to and from Italy, Iraq and South Korea

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that all passenger flights to and from Italy, Iraq and South Korea had been halted due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The measure will be effective 12am on Sunday, he said, adding the land crossings between Turkey and neighbouring Iraq had also been closed.

Turkey had previously halted passenger flights to and from Iran and China.

18:49 GMT – France has more than 100 confirmed cases: official

France has 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the head of the public health service, Jerome Salomon, said, raising the tally from 73.

Of those cases, two people have died, 12 have recovered and 86 are in hospital, nine of them in a serious condition, Salomon told journalists in a daily news briefing about the outbreak.

A family from France arrives at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport from Venezia, before traveling towards France, where cases of novel coronavirus has been confirmed in Barcelona, Spain Febru
In France, two people have died so far due to the coronavirus outbreak [Nacho Doce/Reuters]

18:20 GMT – First US death reported in Washington state

A person has died in Washington state of the new coronavirus, state health officials said – making it the first reported death in the United States.

President Donald Trump announced that the person who died was a woman at her 50s.

17:40 GMT – Coronavirus cases exceed 1,000 in Italy, death toll at 29: official

The number of cases of the new coronavirus in Italy has exceeded 1,000, the health ministry said, with the death toll rising by eight to 29 in the past 24 hours.

The number of cases reached 1,128 since the start of the epidemic, up from 888 on Friday, although 52 percent of those tested show few to no symptoms, the Italian health authorities said.

17:00 GMT – Cases in the Netherlands increase to seven

Three more people in the Netherlands have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, increasing the total number of cases to seven.

The wife and daughter of the country’s first coronavirus patient tested positive, according to health agency RIVM.

Hours later, a woman in Delft was reported as the seventh confirmed case by the Dutch media.

16:43 GMT – Iraq confirms five news cases

Iraq has detected five new cases of coronavirus, four in Baghdad and one in Babel province, the health ministry said, taking the total number of cases there to 13.

The patients were placed in quarantine, the ministry said in a statement.

Coronavirus precautions in Iraq's Baghdad
The total number of cases in Iraq is 13, according to the authorities [Reuters]

16:00 GMT – Azerbaijan shuts border with Iran

Azerbaijan said it had closed its border with Iran for two weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus, after the death toll in Iran rose to 43, the highest number outside of China.

Two Azerbaijanis have been placed in quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus, the government said in a statement, adding that both had arrived from Iran.

It said the decision to close the border had been taken “in light of the World Health Organisation’s recommendations and the experience of other countries related to the risk of the spread of coronavirus”.

15:45 GMT – Lebanon confirms three new cases

Lebanon’s health ministry said three new cases of coronavirus had been confirmed, state news agency NNA reported, bringing the total number of cases in the country to seven.

The ministry said the three new patients had been quarantined at a Beirut hospital and that their cases were the result of contact with those who were already infected in Lebanon.

15:20 GMT – Pakistan announces two more cases

The Pakistani health minister confirmed two more coronavirus infections in the country, bringing the total number of cases in the country to four.

15:01 GMT – Northern Italian schools, universities to stay closed

Schools and universities will stay closed for a second consecutive week in three northern Italian regions in an effort to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of coronavirus, the head of the Emilia Romagna region said.

Stefano Bonaccini wrote on Facebook that besides his own region, educational centres in neighbouring Lombardy and Veneto would remain shuttered on the advice of the government, dashing any hopes of a swift return to normality in Italy.

This is Umut Uras  in Doha, covering the latest developments on the outbreak.

Various countries around the world, such as Lebanon, Pakistan and South Korea, have reported new cases of coronavirus throughout the day. Qatar has reported its first case, as a 36-year-old man, who returned from Iran, tested positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, Iran reported nine more deaths due to the coronavirus. The country has the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths outside China.

Keep following this blog for today’s latest updates.

11:26 GMT – Qatar reports first case of coronavirus

Qatar’s health ministry has reported the first case of coronavirus infection in the country, according to the state-run Qatar News Agency (QNA).

The patient is a 36-year-old Qatari man who was recently evacuated from Iran on a government-chartered plane and had been in quarantine with other evacuees, QNA reported. The health ministry said the infected man is in stable condition.

10:55 GMT – Taiwan accuses China of waging cyberwar to disrupt virus fight

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu has accused China of using “cyber warriors” to wage a “war” on the island and disrupt its fight against the coronavirus with fake news.

The coronavirus outbreak has strained already poor ties between Taipei and Beijing, which claims the island as part of China. Taiwan says China has blocked its efforts to participate with the WHO independently.

10:00 GMT – Iran reports nine more deaths

Iran’s health ministry has said 205 new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the country in the last 24 hours, with nine more deaths reported.

The new numbers bring the total deaths in the country to 43 among 593 cases.

09:40 GMT – North Korea calls for stronger anti-virus efforts

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for stronger anti-virus efforts to guard against COVID-19, saying there will be “serious consequences” if the illness spreads to the country.

During a governing party meeting, Kim called for the country’s anti-epidemic headquarters to strengthen screening and tests to seal off all “channels and space through which the infectious disease may find its way”, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said.

Kim said all fields and units of the country should “unconditionally” obey quarantine instructions laid-out by the anti-epidemic headquarters, according to The Associated Press news agency.

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on February 15, 2020 shows people in protective suits spraying disinfectant at an undisclosed location in No
An undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on February 15 shows people in protective suits spraying disinfectant at an undisclosed location in the country [AFP]

09:25 GMT – Saudi Arabia calls on citizens to postpone Lebanon travel

Saudi Arabia called on its citizens and residents to postpone travel to Lebanon over concerns of the spread of coronavirus, the Saudi embassy in Lebanon said on Twitter on Saturday.

Lebanon confirmed its fourth case of the virus on Friday and announced that it was closing all schools until March 8.

09:10 GMT – Kuwait asks citizens to avoid travelling

Kuwait is calling on its citizens to avoid travelling over concerns of coronavirus contamination, a health ministry official said at a media conference.

The Gulf state has not registered any new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, she said. The total number of people infected with the virus in Kuwait is 45, the health ministry said on Friday, which has reported no deaths.

08:30 GMT – S Korea reports 219 new cases

There were 219 new coronavirus cases in South Korea, bringing the country’s total infections to 3,150, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new cases added to the 594 confirmed earlier in the day. Together they logged a record daily increase in infections since South Korea confirmed its first patient on January 20.

07:55 GMT – Russia asks citizens to avoid foreign travel

A senior Russian official has called on citizens of the country to refrain from non-essential travel abroad over fears about the growing number of coronavirus cases internationally.

Anna Popova, the head of Russia’s consumer health watchdog, told local news agencies that Russians should stay put to avoid contracting the virus, according to Reuters news agency.

“In order to consider yourself protected today, first of all, possible future trips outside the native country need to be reduced as much as possible,” Popova said. “Now is a time when it is not worth leaving Russia.”

russia coronavirus
A family wearing face masks walk at Biblioteka Imeni Lenina Metro station in Moscow [Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP]

07:00 GMT – Taiwan reports five new cases

Taiwan reported a jump of five cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, including four people who had contact with another patient in a hospital and one person returning from the Middle East, bringing Taiwan’s total to 39.

The government’s Central Epidemic Command Centre said a cleaner and three nurses were the four staff who had been infected at the hospital, which was treating another coronavirus case. The fifth new case is a woman in her 60s who went on a tour to Egypt and Dubai.

06:40 GMT – Australia bans foreign travellers from Iran

Australia’s health minister has said the country will ban foreign travellers arriving from Iran due to the country’s “high death rate” from coronavirus, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the ban will go into effect on March 1 and will last for 14 days. Australian citizens will be allowed to return from Iran during that time, but will be required to self isolate for 14 days, the newspaper reported.

05:44 GMT – Uzbekistan Airways halts flights to Seoul 

Uzbekistan Airways will temporarily halt flights to the South Korean capital of Seoul from March 1 over concerns about a coronavirus outbreak in the Asian nation, the airline said on Saturday.

The airline halted flights to the Saudi Arabian cities of Jeddah and Medina over the growing number of virus infections in February.

05:28 GMT – New coronavirus infection in Thailand takes tally to 42

Thailand recorded a new coronavirus infection, taking its tally to 42, a health official has said.

The newest case is a 21-year-old Thai salesman whose job brought him exposure to foreign tourists, Sukhum Kanchanaphimai, the permanent secretary of the health ministry, told a news conference.

This is Joseph Stepanskyin Doha taking over from Ted Regencia.

Here is a quick summary of the latest developments:

South Korea has reported 594 new coronavirus cases, the most reported infections in a single day since the outbreak began. The new numbers bring the total in the country to 2,931, with 17 deaths.

Meanwhile, the United States has reported cases in California and Oregon of unknown origin, alarming health officials.

Keep following us here for today’s latest updates.

04:33 GMT – Japan to create fund to subsidise parents during school closure

Japan’s government plans to create a fund to help companies pay subsidies to workers who need to take days off to look after their children while schools are closed, the Nikkei business daily reported on Saturday, without citing sources.

The move comes after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday asked local authorities to shut schools from Monday in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

This means students will be out from Monday at least until the new academic year starts in early April, prompting Japanese parents, along with teachers and businesses, to scramble to find new ways to cope.

Infections from the virus in Japan have topped 200, with five deaths – including one on Friday of a man in his 70s. That excludes more than 700 infections and five more deaths from the quarantined cruise liner Diamond Princess, docked in Yokohama.

03:42 GMT – UN chief recommends ministers, diplomats skip meeting due to coronavirus risks – letter

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has recommended that ministers and diplomats skip a meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York next month due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

More than 7,000 people usually attend the annual meeting, officials said, which is dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. It is due to be held from March 9 to 20.

However, in a letter to the UN member states from the chair of the commission, Armenia’s UN Ambassador Mher Margaryan said Guterres had recommended that member states “shorten and scale down the session” and cancel dozens of side events.

02:45 GMT – Oregon reports first coronavirus case of unknown origin

The US state of Oregon has reported its first coronavirus case, which is of unknown origin.

According to the statement from Oregon health officials, the infected individual – identified as a resident of Washington County – had neither history of travel to a country where the virus was circulating, nor is believed to have had close contact with another confirmed case.

Public health officials are considering it a likely community-transmitted case, which means that the origin of the infection is unknown, the statement added.

Oregon is located just north of the state of California, which reported its second infection late on Friday – also of unknown origin.

01:25 GMT – South Korea reports 594 new coronavirus cases, total hits 2,931

South Korea reported 594 new coronavirus cases, raising the country’s total infections to 2,931, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday.

00:42 GMT – China reports 427 new coronavirus cases, 47 deaths

Mainland China had 427 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Friday, the country’s National Health Commission said on Saturday, up from 327 cases a day earlier.

That brings the total accumulated number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 79,251.

The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 2,835 as of the end of Friday, up by 47 from the previous day.

Of the total number of deaths, at least 45 were from Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak. Of the 45 deaths in Hubei, 37 were from the city of Wuhan.

00:10 GMT – California confirms second coronavirus case

The US state of California has confirmed a second case of coronavirus.

“Now, we have a case who did not recently travel or come in contact with anyone known to be ill,” Sara Cody, the director of public health for Santa Clara County, near San Francisco, told reporters.

She said the second patient is a woman being treated at a hospital.

California - coronavirus
Cameron Nightingale adjusts his mask and gloves, a precaution to protect himself from coronavirus, while walking by cable car in San Francisco, California [Josh Edelson/ AFP]

23:19 GMT (Friday) – US urges citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Italy

The US on Friday warned against non-essential travel to Italy, a top destination for US tourists, over the growing coronavirus epidemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “recommends that travellers avoid all nonessential travel to Italy. There is limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas”, a statement said.

The State Department raised its travel advice a notch for Italy to “reconsider travel”.

23:04 GMT – US postpones summit with ASEAN leaders

The US will postpone a meeting with leaders of Southeast Asian countries it planned to host on March 14, amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, two US officials familiar with the matter said on Friday.

US President Donald Trump had invited leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian nations to meet in Las Vegas after he did not attend a summit with the group in Bangkok in November.

The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

19:50 GMT – Two South Africans test positive in Japan

Two South Africans on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a state-run medical institute.

“We confirm that these citizens are currently being treated in Japan and are in good care,” said a statement by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus from our bureau in Kuala Lumpur – Ted Regencia

Click here to read updates on Friday, February 28.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies