Death toll from coronavirus in Italy rises to 148: Live updates

The country reported the highest number of deaths outside of China, as world steps up efforts to tackle COVID-19.

Medics wheel out a person on a stretcher from the Life Care Center of Kirkland, a long-term care facility linked to several confirmed coronavirus cases, in Kirkland, Washington, U.S. March 4, 2020. RE
US Congress backed emergency funding to help the United States tackle the growing coronavirus outbreak [Lindsey Wasson/Reuters]

Italy reported 41 new deaths from coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the death toll to 148, the second highest outside of China, where just over 3,000 people have died since the outbreak began in December. 

The virus has reached all 22 regions of Italy, and prompted Rome to take unprecedented measures, including suspending all schools and universities and unveiling an $8.4-billion rescue plan. 

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom reported its first death from coronavirus on Thursday, an elderly person with underlying health conditions, while Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and South Africa reported their first cases. 

In the United States, Congress has voted for a $8.3bn emergency funding package to fight the coronavirus as the death toll rose to 11.  

Globally, more than 95,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the vast majority in China.

This is Joseph Stepansky taking over from Mersiha Gadzo in Doha.

Here are all the latest updates.

Click here for Friday, March 6 updates

Thursday, March 5

20 GMT – Palestinian gov’t confirms seven virus cases, declares two-week tourist ban

The Palestinian government confirmed the number of coronavirus cases in the occupied West Bank had risen to seven and declared a two-week ban on tourists visiting cities and sites including Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.

The health ministry said the cases had been confirmed in the Bethlehem area south of Jerusalem.

“They are now being treated in quarantine,” a statement from minister Mai al-Kaila said.

19:55 GMT – VP: US does not have coronavirus tests to meet anticipated demand

The US does not yet have enough coronavirus tests to meet anticipated demand, Vice President Mike Pence has said, adding that the Coast Guard has delivered tests to a cruise ship off the coast of California.

“We don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate the demand going forward,” Pence said during a visit to Minnesota.

“As more Americans take an interest in this or have concerns about this, we want to make sure they have access to the coronavirus test as well and we’ve made real progress on that in the last several days.”

19:50 GMT – Paris marathon postponed due to coronavirus

The Paris marathon has been postponed from April 5 to October 18 due to the coronavirus outbreak, organisers said on Thursday.

“In order to avoid a late cancellation that would penalise the participants, we have, in agreement with the Paris mayor’s office, decided to postpone the Paris marathon to Oct. 18,” Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) said in a statement.

19:20 GMT – US Congress passes $8.3bn emergency funding for coronavirus fight

The US Congress has passed an $8.3bn emergency spending bill to address the coronavirus crisis as infections spread to at least 14 states and deaths reached 11.

The Senate gave sweeping bipartisan support to the funding one day after the House passed the bill, so that it could be quickly sent to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.

19:05 GMT – WHO Director General: ‘This is not a drill’

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that the organisation is concerned that the “level of political commitment” in some countries do not “match the level of the threat we all face”. 

On Twitter, he wrote: “This is not a drill. Not a time to give up. Not a time for excuses.”

19:00 GMT – France reports three more coronavirus deaths, taking total to seven

Three more people have died from coronavirus infection in France on Thursday, taking the total to seven, while the number of confirmed infections rose by 138 to 423, a health official said.

A total of 23 people are in a very serious condition, health agency director Jerome Salomon said at a daily briefing about the virus.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in a video on the Elysee palace website that it now appeared to be “inevitable” the coronavirus outbreak will develop into an epidemic in France

18:45 GMT – Saudi Arabia denounces Iran for accepting Saudi visitors amid coronavirus

Saudi Arabia denounced Iran for granting Saudi citizens entry amid the coronavirus outbreak and urged it to reveal the identities of all Saudi nationals who had visited since the start of February, a government statement said. 

The statement, which cited an unnamed official, urged Saudi citizens who are currently in Iran or have returned recently to report their travel, promising if they did so in 48 hours they would not be subjected to a law forbidding travel to Iran, according to Reuters news agency. 

18:30 GMT – New York state coronavirus cases double to 22

The number of people who have tested positive in New York state for the novel coronavirus has doubled to 22 after following a significant increase in testing, Governor Andrew Cuomo has said. 

“The number will continue to go up,” Cuomo told a news conference. “The more you test the higher number you will have.”

18:15 GMT – Report: US Joint Chiefs of Staff creates 24/7 ‘crisis management team’

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, a body of military leaders that advises the White House, Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, has set up a 24-hour team to track the global spread of coronavirus, according to a report by CNN. 

18:00 GMT – Italy reports 41 new coronavirus deaths, bringing toll to 148

Italy has reported 41 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, its highest single-day total to date, bringing the number of fatalities in Europe’s most affected country to 148.

The number of cases also jumped by a new high of 769, reaching 3,858 over the past two weeks.

The latest figures mean Italy has the second most deaths behind China, where the new virus was first detected at the end of last year.

Very few people are seen in the area surrounding the Colosseum, which would usually be full of tourists, in Rome, Italy, March 2, 2020. Italy's tourism industry has been affected by a coronavirus outb
Very few people are seen in the area surrounding the Colosseum, which would usually be full of tourists, in Rome [Remo Casilli/Reuters]

17:40 GMT – First death in UK from Coronavirus

The UK has recorded its first death in the new coronavirus outbreak, England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said. 

“I am very sorry to report a patient in England who tested positive for COVID-19 has sadly died,” he said in a statement, according to AFP news agency, adding the patient at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, west of London, was elderly and had “underlying health conditions”.

At least 115 people had been infected in the UK as of Thursday. 

17:30 GMT – US gov’t to distribute enough test kits for 400,000 citizens: Official

US health officials have said they expect to be able to get enough coronavirus tests to public laboratories this week to test about 400,000 people, while acknowledging the challenge for doctors seeking to get patients screened for the disease.

Officials expect to ship additional test kits to cover between 1.5 and 1.7 million people by the end of next week, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters.

“Right now, it is a challenge if you are a doctor wanting to get somebody tested,” Azar said, following a briefing with lawmakers, adding that physicians could only reach out to a limited network of public health labs. “That experience will get better over the next week, week and a half, two weeks. But do not be surprised if you hear concerns of doctors saying: ‘I have a patient. I don’t know how to get this done.'”

Us coronavirus
A woman wears a facial surgical mask while riding the MARTA rail rapid transit system in Atlanta, Georgia [Erik S. Lesser/EPA]

17:20 GMT – WHO head: Epidemic can be pushed back with concerted approach

The epidemic of the  coronavirus infection spreading around the world from China can be contained and controlled, the WHO has said, but only with a concerted response by all the world’s governments.

“We are calling on every country to act with speed, scale and clear-minded determination,” the WHO’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a briefing at the UN health agency’s Geneva headquarters.

Tedros voiced concern that “some countries have either not taken this seriously enough, or have decided there is nothing they can do”.

17:00 GMT – UK to prepare for ‘significant’ spread of coronavirus: PM spokesman

UK officials will accelerate preparations for the next phase of the coronavirus outbreak, which they expect to spread in a “significant way”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman has said.

“It is now highly likely that the virus is going to spread in a significant way,” the spokesman said, according to Reuters news agency. “Officials will therefore accelerate work on preparations for the ‘delay’ phase of the government’s plan, focusing on steps we could take to seek to delay the spread of the virus.”

16:50 GMT – Coronavirus shuts school attended by Swedish royals

An exclusive private school in Stockholm, which counts Swedish royalty among its pupils, closed on Thursday after a student tested positive for the coronavirus, the royal court said.

Attended by Princess Estelle, granddaughter of King Carl XVI Gustaf and second in line to the throne, the Campus Manilla school draws its pupils from Sweden’s wealthiest families.

“They have had a pupil at the school who has tested positive for the coronavirus, that’s the reason they closed the school,” the court’s press secretary Johan Tegel told Reuters news agency. The princess is not the pupil who tested positive, Tegel said, adding only that she “did not attend school today.”

16:45 GMT – Coronavirus death toll in Italy’s Lombardy region rises to 98 from 73

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of a nationwide contagion, has risen over the past day to 98 from 73, a local official said on Thursday.

The latest national death toll figures are due to be released later in the day. On Wednesday the tally stood at 107.

16:35 GMT – WHO: North Korea still has no reported cases

Despite being in the heart of the coronavirus epidemic zone, North Korea still has no reported cases of the coronavirus, WHO official Mike Ryan has said. 

Read more about the threat posed to North Korea by the coronavirus here

coronavirus north korea
A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows a health worker speaking to people about the coronavirus in Pyongyang [EPA]

16:30 – GMT – WHO warns ‘long list’ of countries not doing enough against coronavirus

The WHO has warned that a number of countries have not taken all the the steps needed to fight against the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva he was concerned that a “long list” of countries were not showing “the level of political commitment” needed to “match the level of the threat we all face”.

16:20 GMT – NATO military HQ confirms first coronavirus cases

NATO said Thursday it had confirmed three cases of coronavirus linked to its military headquarters in Belgium – a civilian employee and two family members.

The employee had recently travelled to Italy. NATO said the employee and family members had not visited its Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) facility in Mons, southern Belgium, since returning from Italy.

“There are three confirmed COVID-19 cases within our wider SHAPE community,” NATO said in a statement. “The cases were ‘imported’ to Belgium following foreign travel and the affected individuals have not entered the SHAPE site since returning home.”

16:15 GMT – Russia requires ships from Iran, Italy and South Korea to disinfect 

Russia has required mandatory disinfection of ships arriving at the Black Sea ports of Novorossiiysk and Yuzhnaya Ozereyevka from Iran, Italy and South Korea because of the coronavirus, a document seen by Reuters news agency showed. 

The branch of Rospotrebnadzor, the Russia’s consumer safety watchdog, has ordered port agents “to arrange the disinfection of ships arriving from these countries before the border is opened” in the city of Novorossiisk, the document showed.

Novorossiisk port is one of the biggest in the Black Sea. It handles grain, coal, mineral fertilizers, timber, oil and oil products, containers, food and chemical cargoes.

16:10 GMT – US envoy says Iran “rejected” coronavirus assistance offer

A US envoy has said Washington has offered humanitarian assistance to Iran to help them deal with their coronavirus outbreak but “the regime rejected the offer”.

In an interview, US special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, said “we asked the regime to identify what their needs are” but Iran did not respond, according to the Associated Press news agency. He said the offer would stand.

Hook also said the U.S. has asked Iran to release all Americans from its prisons “on medical furloughs” over fears the coronavirus may be infesting the country’s prisons. He said five Americans are being held in Iran.

Iran corona
Members of a medical team spray disinfectant to sanitize outdoor place of Imam Reza’s holy shrine, following the coronavirus outbreak, in Mashhad, Iran [Reuters]

16:05 GMT – US official says overall coronavirus mortality rates one percent or less

The best estimate of the overall mortality rate from the novel coronavirus lies somewhere between 0.1 percent and 1 percent, a senior US public health official has said. 

“That’s lower than you’ve heard probably,” US Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir told reporters after briefing members of Congress, according to Reuters news agency. “Many people don’t get sick and don’t get tested,” he added. “So probably for every case, there are at least two or three cases that are not in the denominator.”

The World Health Organization has most recently put the death rate at 3.4 percent. 

16:00 GMT – US: Seattle school district to close for two weeks

A school district north of Seattle with 22,000 students will close for up to two weeks because of coronavirus concerns.

All 26 schools in the Northshore School District will be closed for up to two weeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and protect vulnerable staff members, the district’s superintendent said in a letter to parents, according the Associated Press news agency. 

There have been at least 39 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Seattle area, with ten deaths. 

Washington, USA
Medics wheel out a person on a stretcher from the Life Care Center of Kirkland, a long-term care facility linked to several confirmed coronavirus cases, in Washington state [Lindsey Wasson/Reuters]

15:50 GMT – Lufthansa suspends 7,100 flights in March, including to Israel

German airline group Lufthansa has said it is cancelling about 7,100 flights up to the end of March due to lower demand and the spread of coronavirus.

The group, which includes Swiss International Air Lines and Austrian Airlines, added it will reduce capacity by up to 25 percent, according to Reuters news agency.  Among the affected flights are high-frequency connections in Germany and to Italy, which has reported thousands of coronavirus infections and is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.

Lufthansa also said it will suspend all flights to Israel, starting on Sunday, until March 28.

15:45 – North Korean leader sends ‘get well soon’ message to South Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sent a letter expressing hope for South Korea to overcome a coronavirus outbreak, President Moon Jae-in’s office has said, as the South battles the biggest epidemic of the disease outside China.

In the letter delivered on Wednesday, Kim voiced concern over Moon’s health, and expounded what he described as his “honest view and position” regarding the situation on the Korean peninsula, Moon’s office said, without elaborating.

“Chairman Kim wished to console our citizens who are fighting the coronavirus,” Yoon Do-han, Moon’s senior press secretary, told reporters. “He said he believes we will win, and hoped the health of southern compatriots will be protected.”

coronavirus north korea
A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows a health worker speaking to people about the coronavirus in Pyongyang [EPA]

15:35 – South African president says coronavirus will hurt tourism, economy

The spread of the coronavirus to South Africa will have a huge impact on travel and a negative impact on the already struggling South African economy, President Cyril Ramaphosa has

“We will keep informing South Africans openly and transparently about a number of steps we will be taking because this will turn out to be a national crisis,” the president said.

“It will have a huge impact on travel, and a negative impact also on our economy.” 

15:25 GMT – France reports two more coronavirus deaths, taking total to six

French authorities have reported two more deaths linked to the coronavirus outbreak in the country, taking the total of deaths to six.

Authorities said in a statement France has also registered 92 new confirmed coronavirus cases, taking the total toll of cases to 377.

France Coronavirus
A woman wears a protective mask in light of the coronavirus outbreak in China as she walks at the Trocadero esplanade in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]

15:20 GMT – Coronavirus infections jump to 82 in the Netherlands 

The number of patients infected with the coronavirus in the Netherlands has more than doubled to 82, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) has said.

The number of coronavirus cases in the Netherlands increased from 38 a day earlier. The country’s first infection was reported on February 27.

Sixty-nine patients were infected abroad or are had contact with confirmed patients. Of the new patients, two have been hospitalised. The other new patients are under home isolation.

15:15 GMT – Thailand announces compulsory quarantine for some locations

The Thai government has announced new compulsory quarantine measure for arrivals from four countries and two territories in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The move came as the Thai postal service began disinfecting all packages received from overseas, although the WHO has said it is safe to receive post from badly affected countries such as China.

The quarantine announcement, published in the official Royal Gazette , classified South Korea, China, Macao, Hong Kong, Italy and Iran as “dangerous communicable disease areas”.

15:00 GMT – US: Cruise ship with suspected cases held off San Francisco

An ocean liner that previously carried two passengers who contracted the coronavirus, one who later died, has been barred from returning to its home port of San Francisco from a voyage to Hawaii after at least 20 people aboard fell ill. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom said the cruise ship Grand Princess would remain at sea until passengers and crew complaining of symptoms that may be consistent with the coronavirus can be tested to determine whether they have it. Testing kits were being brought to the ship. 

14:45 GMT – SA Health Minister warns virus will test health system

South Africa’s health minister has warned that the country’s health system would be tested by the coronavirus, after it earlier confirmed its first case.

Addressing lawmakers in Cape Town, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that South Africa was working with the WHO and other institutions to help diagnose the virus, called COVID-19, across Africa.

“I think we need to be upfront about it…Our system will be tested by the impact of coronavirus,” he said, according to Reuters news agency. 

14:30 GMT – Cases in Greece triple with links to pilgrim

Greece has said that 21 people linked to man who had tested positive for coronavirus after they all visited Israel and Egypt had themselves become infected.

The new cases brought the total in Greece to 31, and health ministry official Sotiris Tsiodras said a significant rise was expected in the coming weeks.

The 66-year-old man had recently returned from a religious pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt as part of a group. His wife also tested positive.

coronavirus greece
People wearing protective face masks are seen outside the AHEPA hospital, where the first confirmed coronavirus case was treated, in Thessaloniki, Greece [Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters]

14:15 GMT – UN concerned over Cyprus crossing closure

The United Nations has voiced concern over the disruption caused by the Republic of Cyprus government’s temporary closure of several crossings on the divided island’s ceasefire line over the coronavirus crisis.

“Following the decision to temporarily close four crossing points along the buffer zone, UNFICYP is concerned by the ongoing disruption caused to people on both sides,” the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus said in a statement.  “While the UN supports all effective measures to address any potential public health emergency, it is imperative for the two sides to coordinate closely in order to provide a comprehensive response.”

The island is divided between the Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member state, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognised only by Ankara.

Cyprus coronavirus
Tourists walk near the closed Ledra checkpoint at the UN-controlled buffer zone between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus [Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters]

14:00 GMT – Rugby: Italy versus England Six Nation games postponed

England’s final Six Nations matches against Italy in Rome next week has been postponed amid fears over the coronavirus outbreak, tournament organisers have said. 

“Six Nations notes the decree issued by the Italian Government with respect to all upcoming sporting events in that country,” organisers said in a statement. “The decision has now been taken to postpone the three matches between Italy and England (Men’s, Women’s, and U20) set to take place over the weekend of 13th/14th/15th March, with the intention to reschedule them at later dates.”

13:45 GMT – #CoronaVirusSA trends worldwide after first case confirmed

The hashtag #CoronaVirusSA began trending worldwide after the first case was confirmed in South Africa. 

Authorities said the infected 38-year-old man had recently traveled to Italy with his wife. A “tracer team” has been identifying anyone who had contact with the man and his personal doctor has self isolated, South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases tweeted. 

13:30 GMT – South Africa third sub-Saharan country to confirm coronavirus case

South Africa’s announcement that a case of coronavirus has been confirmed in the country makes it the third sub-Saharan country to report the infection. 

Senegal has reported one case, while Nigeria has reported four, to date. Sub-Saharan Africa is considered high risk for an outbreak because of its close ties to China and weak health care infrastructure in many countries.

In North Africa, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco have confirmed cases. 

13:15 GMT – South Africa Health Minister: Citizens in China to be brought home

South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has said citizens currently quarantined in China will be returning home in the next few days. 

Mkhize made the announcement shortly after the country confirmed its first case of the virus, a man who had recently travelled to Italy with his wife. 

12:30 GMT – Netherlands braces for return of 900 students from Italian alps

Dutch health authorities said they were scrambling to put together a plan for the return of a group of about 900 students from a skiing trip in the north of Italy.

The trip by the youngsters, mostly in their early 20s, to the heart of Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak has stoked fears of a wider spread of the virus in the Netherlands, where the number of confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday stood at 38.

“We are working very hard to prepare for all different scenarios,” local health authorities spokeswoman Hanneke Mensink told Reuters news agency.

These scenarios might include plans to monitor or test all students involved after their return.

netherlands coronavirus
A woman from the Netherlands and her friend from Britain stand next to the display flight information at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport [Nacho Doce/Reuters]

12:20 GMT – Egypt reports first case in an Egyptian national

Egypt recorded the first coronavirus case in an Egyptian national who had returned from Serbia via France, a joint statement from the health ministry and the World Health Organization said.

The North African country registered two cases before in foreigners, one of whom recovered and was released from quarantine.

12:06 GMT – Formal proposal to postpone matches shared: FIFA

FIFA shared a formal proposal to postpone upcoming matches in the Asian FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers with relevant member associations.

“For both FIFA and the AFC, the well-being and health of all individuals involved in football matches remains the highest priority,” FIFA’s statement read, adding that it will provide an update in the coming days following consultation with AFC member associations.

“Other topics of discussion were the women’s Olympic play-off between Korea Republic and China PR, as well as the AFC Futsal Championship Turkmenistan 2020,” it said.

12:00 GMT – South Africa confirms first case of coronavirus

South Africa’s health ministry confirmed its first case of coronavirus in the country.

The patient is a 38-year-old male who travelled to Italy with his wife, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement.

The couple returned to South Africa on March 1 and the patient consulted a private practitioner two days later with symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, a sore throat and a cough.

The patient has been in isolation since then as well as the doctor.

Passenger wearing protective face masks arrive from Shenzhen in China, at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, on March 2, 2020 amid concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic c
Travellers wearing protective face masks arrive from Shenzhen in China, at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa [Phill Magakoe/AFP]

11:33 GMT – New Delhi primary schools closed

All government-run primary schools in the Indian capital will remain closed until March 31 as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, the local education minister said. 

11:17 GMT – US, Israel cancel military exercise

The US and Israel have scrapped the remainder of their joint military exercise Juniper Cobra 20 over the coronavirus outbreak, the US European Command based in Germany said.

“The decision is in alignment with recent Israeli Ministry of Health guidelines on COVID-19, and a precautionary measure to ensure the health and safety of all participants,” USEUCOM said in a statement.

10:54 GMT – Palestinian Authority issues foreign tourist ban

The Palestinian Authority ordered hotels in the occupied West Bank to stop receiving foreign tourists after four suspected cases of the coronavirus were found in Bethlehem.

The two-week restriction, announced by the Palestinian Tourism Ministry, goes into effect on Friday.

A visitor wearing a mask as a preventive measure against the coronavirus takes pictures in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasm
A visitor wearing a mask as a preventive measure against the coronavirus takes pictures in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank [Mussa Qawasma/Reuters]

10:44 GMT – Iran says deaths reach 107 amid 3,513 confirmed cases

Iran announced 15 deaths and 591 fresh cases in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 107 dead amid 3,513 infected cases across the country, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a televised news conference.

10:30 GMT – China’s Alibaba to offer $144m in subsidies as shopping suffers

China’s Alibaba Group will provide one billion yuan ($144m) in spending subsidies for a March online shopping festival to counter the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Alibaba’s announcement, made in a social media post, comes as the e-commerce giant wrestles with depressed consumer spending in China, which is in a state of semi-quarantine.

10:20 GMT – Iran closes schools, universities until March 20

According to Iran’s health minister, Iran will close schools and universities until the end of the Iranian calendar year on March 20 due to the coronavirus.

10:16 GMT – Bethlehem church to close

The Church of Nativity in the biblical city of Bethlehem, revered as the birthplace of Jesus will close after a suspected outbreak of the coronavirus, a church official said.

The Palestinian health ministry called for local churches, mosques and other institutions to close after a number of suspected cases at a hotel in the Holy Land city of Bethlehem.

Foreign tourists visit the Church of the Nativity, revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on March 05, 2020.
Tourists visit the Church of the Nativity, revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in Bethlehem, occupied West Bank  [AFP]

10:15 GMT  – Slovenia confirms first case

Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec said the first case of COVID-19 has been detected in Slovenia.

Slovenia’s Health Minister Ales Sabeder said the person detected with the virus had traveled from Morocco to Italy and then to Slovenia.

09:55 GMT – COVID-19 accompanied by conspiracy theories

Coronavirus’ rapid spread has been accompanied by an outbreak of false claims and conspiracy theories on social and mainstream media, allowing misinformation on the origins of the virus and hoaxes on cures to travel as fast as the infection.

One study by the US State Department, reported on by the Washington Post, said roughly two million tweets touting conspiracy theories about the virus – such as claims it was caused by a bioweapon – had been posted outside the US over the three-week period when the disease began to spread outside China.

Read more here.

09:37 GMT – Airlines could lose up to $113bn in revenue: IATA

Airlines could lose $63bn to $113bn in revenue for passenger traffic globally in 2020, depending on how the coronavirus spreads, International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.

IATA on February 20 estimated the outbreak would cost carriers $29.3bn in revenue.

09:35 GMT – Kuwait confirms two more cases

Kuwait’s Ministry of Health confirmed two more coronavirus cases, during the past 24 hours.

The ministry said that the two cases came from Iran, bringing the country’s total number of confirmed cases to 58.

09:20 GMT – Germany reports 109 new cases in a day

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 109 within a day, a public health institute said.

As of Thursday morning, there were 349 cases across all but one federal state, up from 240 on Wednesday morning and compared with 262 on Wednesday afternoon, the Robert Koch Institute said.

The hardest-hit state is the western region of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous, with 175 cases.

09:15 GMT – More than 290 million students missing school: UN

More than 290 million students have been affected by school closures across 13 countries to curb the coronavirus outbreak, the UN said.

“While temporary school closures as a result of health and other crises are not new unfortunately, the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education,” Audrey Azoulay, director general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said in a statement.

Italy: Coronavirus death toll to 107; 3,089 cases

09:06 GMT – Switzerland reports first death

A 74-year-old woman in western Switzerland has died after contracting the new coronavirus, the country’s first death, regional police said.

The woman had been hospitalised in the canton of Vaud since Tuesday, police said. She was a high-risk patient suffering from chronic disease, authorities said.

07:43 GMT – Bosnia and Herzegovina reports first two cases

Bosnia and Herzegovina has reported its first two cases of coronavirus, confirmed by the health ministry of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska entity. 

Alen Seranic, the regional health minister said at a press conference that a middle-aged man, who returned to Bosnia a month ago from Italy where he works, has been infected with coronavirus as well as his child.

The man was confirmed earlier this week as having coronavirus. He’s currently in stable condition and is being kept in isolation in hospital in the city of Banja Luka.

Health authorities will test school children who have had contact with the infected child, as well as all other members of the infected family, he said. The school will be closed for the next couple of days.

07:36 GMT – Chinese President Xi’s visit delayed

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan has been postponed because as countries have agreed to prioritise the fight against the coronavirus outbreak, Japan’s top government spokesman said.

The Asian neighbours agreed that a new itinerary would be arranged at a better time, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

Suga said the delay in Xi’s visit, which had been originally planned for early April, would not affect Japan-China relations.

06:42 GMT – Greece reports tenth case, shuts schools in three areas

Greece reported its tenth case of coronavirus. The person had recently returned from a religious pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt, health authorities said.

Greece on Wednesday ordered schools to be closed and banned public gatherings in three districts in western Greece from Thursday as a precaution after a person from the region tested positive for coronavirus.

The ban was in effect for 48 hours and subject to review, authorities said.

US House approves $8.3bn in spending to fight coronavirus

06:41 GMT – Italy may raise support spending to five billion euros

Italy’s government is likely to increase to five billion euros ($5.57bn) the value of measures to help the economy withstand the largest outbreak of coronavirus in Europe, Deputy Economy Minister Laura Castelli said.

“It is likely that the government will reach [five billion euros]” Castelli said in an interview with daily Il Messaggero, adding that she thought it was “necessary to raise the bar as much as possible”.

Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri has promised tax breaks and other measures for the affected sectors worth 3.6 billion euros.

A government source told Reuters on Wednesday this may be raised to 4.5 billion, or 0.25 percent of GDP.

06:35 GMT – UAE advises against travel abroad

The United Arab Emirates has urged citizens and other residents to avoid travelling abroad because of concerns over a coronavirus, state news agency WAM said.

Authorities in the Gulf state may order medical checks on returning travellers and ask them to stay in isolation at home, pending the outcome, WAM said, citing a health ministry statement.

The UAE, which has closed schools and educational institutions for four weeks, said students and education workers would have to spend two weeks in home isolation on returning to the country.

06:30 GMT – IMF: Virus will slow global economic growth this year

The spread of the coronavirus will hold 2020 global output gains to their slowest pace since the 2008-2009 financial crisis, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Wednesday.

The IMF now expects 2020 world growth to be below the 2.9 percent rate for 2019 and revised forecasts will be issued in the coming weeks.

The IMF is making available $50bn in emergency funding to help poor and middle-income countries with weak health systems respond to the epidemic, Georgieva said after a call with the IMF’s steering committee.

Read more here.

05:40 GMT – More people evacuated from Hong Kong

Hong Kong is evacuating more of its people from Wuhan where the coronavirus originated late last year.

The first group of evacuees arrived on Wednesday, after going through health checks before boarding. They will spend 14 days in quarantine.

Coronavirus Hong Kong
Hong Kong is evacuating its citizens from Wuhan in China [Information Services Department, Hong Kong SAR Government/Al Jazeera]

05:20 GMT – Thailand reports four more cases

Thailand has diagnosed four more cases of coronavirus; an Italian man who arrived in the country on March 1, a Thai man who returned from Italy, a Chinese man who was in transit from Iran to China and was found to have the virus during screening. and a Thai student who had come back from Iran.

The country now has 47 confirmed cases. 

04:35 GMT – Japan’s Anges to work on vaccine with Osaka University

Reuters is reporting that Japanese biopharmaceutical firm Anges will work with Osaka University on developing a coronavirus vaccine.

Anges says it will be a ‘preventative DNA vaccine’, according to Reuters, which also cites a professor at Osaka University saying such vaccines could be mass produced in a short period of time.

Researchers around the world have been working to develop effective treatments and vaccines since Chinese scientists first isolated the coronavirus genome back in January.

Coronavirus how to stay safe

04:20 GMT – China, Hong Kong cautiously getting back to work 

Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan has been giving us an update from Hong Kong where she says there are now more people on the street, and more traffic than there have been in weeks.

China is also trying to get its people back to work after a prolonged shutdown to stop the virus from spreading.

The strict quarantines appear to be paying off in terms of lower numbers of daily confirmed cases, but there was a slight uptick in the data released on Thursday – 139 new cases, compared with 119 the day before – and the country has revised its counting methods a few times. 

“China is far from out of the woods,” Gopalan says. “It’s changed the way it tallies the numbers several times. At the moment, it does not include those who are asymptomatic – people who have the virus but are not showing symptoms.” 

03:52 GMT – UK airline Flybe collapses as coronavirus hits flights 

Britain’s biggest operator of domestic flights, Flybe, has announced that it is grounding all its flights following a declaration of bankruptcy, as the coronavirus epidemic takes toll on airline companies worldwide.

“All flights have been grounded and the UK business has ceased trading with immediate effect,” said the airline, which employs an estimated 2,000 people.

02:45 GMT – Olympics will go ahead: Minister Seiko Hashimoto 

Japan’s Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto said on Thursday the country was still preparing for the Summer Games, which are due to start in July.

“Cancellation or delay of the Games would be unacceptable for the athletes,” Hashimoto told the Upper House budget committee. “An environment where athletes can feel at ease and focus should be firmly prepared.”

Hashimoto was speaking as the western prefecture of Shiga reported its first coronavirus case – a man in his 60s – and the country’s total number of cases rose above 1,000.

Japan Olympics
There has been speculation over whether the Olympics will be delayed amid the global coronavirus outbreak [Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]

02:15 GMT – Australia announces second death; more travel restrictions

Australia says a second person has died from the coronavirus; an elderly woman who was diagnosed with the illness after a worker at the nursing home where she lived was confirmed to have the virus.

Most of Australia’s 52 cases are people from the Diamond Princess cruise ship which was quarantined off Japan, but the country has also introduced travel restrictions with a number of countries.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said non-Australians coming from South Korea would not be allowed to enter the country, while people arriving from Italy would have to go through enhanced screening.

A ban on visitors from China and Iran was also being extended, he said.

02:05 GMT – South Korea cases continue to climb

South Korea has just given its first update of the day on the coronavirus situation there. It’s confirmed 438 new cases taking total infections to 5,766.

The Korea Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention also said three more people died from the virus, bringing the total to 35.

The US has also reported two more cases among the 28,500 soldiers stationed in the country, bringing the total to six.

01:55 GMT – Watchdog tells Qantas to improve cleaning standards

Australia’s national carrier has been told to spruce up its cleaning to ensure passengers are better protected from the coronavirus.

The Sydney Morning Herald says Safework NSW issued a notice to the airline on February 26 warning of an “inadequate system of work used to clean planes that may have transported passengers with an infectious disease.” 

01:35 GMT – Singapore delays flight after passenger confirmed with COVID-19

Singapore’s Transport Ministry grounded a Turkish Airlines flight on Wednesday after one of the passengers tested positive for the coronavirus.

TK54, a Boeing 787-9, arrived in Singapore from Turkey on March 3, but was delayed on the return leg after the case was discovered, the ministry said in a statement on its website.

“(The) Ministry of Health has started contact tracing for flight passengers who may have had contact with the case while the case was infectious,” it said.

Local media reported there were 220 people on the plane, which flew back to Turkey with crew but no passengers in the early hours of Thursday morning.

00:35 GMT – China coronavirus deaths exceed 3,000

China’s National Health Commission has just released its daily update on the coronavirus.

It reported 139 new cases on Wednesday, compared with 119 the day before. That brings the total number of cases on the mainland 80,409.

The number of deaths rose to 3,012 after an additional 31 people died from the illness.

00:25 GMT – California declares state of emergency over virus

California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus after the state  reported its first death from the disease.

Newsom told a media briefing the state had 53 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur opening today’s blog.

A recap of Wednesday’s developments:

The US Congress has approved emergency funding of $8.3bn to tackle the coronavirus with more than 100 people diagnosed with COVID-19 and 11 deaths. The upper house will vote on the measure on Thursday.

Other countries tackling more severe outbreaks of the disease announced new measures.

Italy, where the death toll has risen to 107, is closing schools and universities and no fans will be allowed to attend large sporting events.

Iran has banned top government officials from leaving the country. The vice president, the deputy heath minister and 23 members of parliament have all been diagnosed with the disease.

In Iraq, a second person died from COVID-19.

Click here to read all the updates from March 4.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies