Global coronavirus cases passed 100,000 on Friday as governments around the world scramble to implement containment measures that include limiting travel, closing schools, and employees working from home.
At least 3,400 deaths have been reported in 34 countries.
Saudi Arabia denounced Iran’s handling of the crisis late on Thursday as the World Health Organisation warned countries to treat the outbreak seriously.
“This is not a drill,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation. “This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops.”
Colombia declares first case
Colombia declared its first case of novel coronavirus on Friday after a 19-year-old woman arriving from Italy tested positive for the virus, the health ministry said.
The woman “presented with symptoms and went to the health services where samples were taken for analysis. The National Institute of Health confirmed positive test results,” the ministry said in a statement.
The woman arrived in the Colombian capital on February 26 from Milan, where she was studying, Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez said.
“We will follow protocol and the agreed treatment,” Ms Lopez said, calling for “calm, zero panic”.
UAE reports 15 new coronavirus cases
The United Arab Emirates on Friday recorded 15 new coronavirus cases, the Ministry of Health and Prevention said in a statement.
The ministry confirmed that the total number of cases in UAE now stands at 45 cases.
Two more patients have recovered from the virus, the statement said, bringing the total number of cured people to seven.
France to close schools in areas worst hit by virus
French Prime minister Edouard Philippe (R) and Health minister Olivier Veran spoke to reporters following a ministers meeting on the Covid-19 outbreak. AFP
France will close nurseries and schools for 15 days from Monday in the two areas most hit by coronavirus infections, one north of Paris and the other in the northeastern part of the country, its prime minister said on Friday.
Edouard Philippe stopped short of raising the emergency response to the virus to Phase 3, the highest there is, but suggested it was only matter of time before the government would do so.
“We’re still in Phase 2. The virus is circulating, but it’s not all over the country,” Mr Philippe said, one day after French president Emmanuel Macron deemed it “inevitable” that the coronavirus outbreak would develop into an epidemic in France.
“Measures specific to Phase 3 will be launched when necessary, not before,” the prime minister added.
“I would like to downplay the switch to Phase 3, which merely reflects the virus circulating widely among the population … something which is now inevitable.”
Saudi Arabia suspends public attendance at sports events
The Saudi ministry of sports announced on Friday it will suspend public attendance at all sports events starting Saturday, a statement from the ministry reported.
The statement added that this comes as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus in places that witness mass crowds, and the suspension will be until further notice.
US excludes Chinese face masks and medical gear from tariffs
The US Trade Representative’s office has granted exclusions from import tariffs for dozens of medical products imported from China, including face masks, sanitising wipes and examination gloves, filings with the agency showed on Friday.
Many of the exclusion requests for medical products appear to have been expedited amid the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak, with approvals granted just over one month past a January 31 application deadline.
Iraq reports eight new cases
Iraq reported eight new coronavirus cases on Friday, the country’s health ministry said.
Five cases were reported in the capital Baghdad, two in Sulaimaniya and one in Karbala, the ministry said.
UN cancels key meetings ahead of climate summit
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) and Sir David Attenborough at the COP26 launch last month. Getty Images
The United Nations has cancelled meetings in Germany and elsewhere planned in the run-up to a crucial UN climate summit to be held in Britain in November due to the coronavirus outbreak, an official said on Friday.
“This exceptional measure aims to contain the spread of Covid-19 and safeguard the health and safety of participants attending UNFCCC meetings in Bonn and elsewhere,” said Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The UNFCCC secretariat will not hold any physical meetings in Bonn or elsewhere between March 6 and the end of April, she said in a statement.
The Glasgow summit in November is expected to be the most important round of climate negotiations since the 2015 Paris agreement was reached.
Hungary suspends issuing visas to Iranians
Hungary said on Friday it would suspend the issuing of visas to Iranian citizens, after confirming that three out of the four cases of the novel coronavirus confirmed in the EU member so far involved Iranians.
“The Hungarian government has indefinitely suspended the issuing of visas to Iranian citizens,” Tibor Lakatos, head of the government’s coronavirus task force, told reporters in Budapest.
There has not yet been an announcement from Hungary about visa restrictions for Chinese or South Korean nationals.
France says it now has 613 confirmed cases
France has 613 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the head of the public health service, Jerome Salomon, said on Friday, which is an increase of 190 compared to a day earlier.
During a press briefing, he added the death toll from the disease was still at nine and that 39 persons were in intensive care.
Iraq adds France and Spain to entry ban list
Medical workers at Najaf airport take travellers’ temperatures on arrival. Reuters
Iraq has banned entry to travellers coming from France and Spain, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday, bringing the total number of countries on its entry ban list to 11 as it tries to stem the spread of coronavirus.
The ban does not extend to Iraqi citizens and foreign diplomats, a ministry spokesman said in a statement.
Iraq has so far recorded 38 cases of the virus and two deaths.
Number of coronavirus cases in Italy rises to nearly 4,000
The number of coronavirus cases in Italy rose to 3,916 on Friday.
523 people have recovered from the outbreak and 197 have died from it, with the north of the country being worst hit.
There have been more deaths in Italy from the virus than any other country except China.
More sports events cancelled in wake of virus
More sporting events were cancelled on Friday and more football matches will be played in empty stadiums because of the virus outbreak spreading around the world.
The World Cup skiing finals in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, scheduled from March 18-22, was called off after an emergency International Ski Federation board meeting.
RCS Sport, which organises cycling events in Italy, canceled the Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo races as well as the Giro di Sicilia.
On Thursday, the Strade Bianche men’s and women’s races were canceled.
English Premier League football clubs now expect they will have to play some games behind closed doors due to the coronavirus.
Spain-based cycling team Movistar also announced Friday that it was suspending participation in all races until March 22. The team led by Alejandro Valverde will miss the Paris-Nice race, among other events.
Danish football club Copenhagen said all of its games in March would be played without fans.
WHO: all countries should make virus containment “highest priority”
The World Health Organisation said on Friday that all countries around the world should make containing the coronavirus their “highest priority”.
“We are now on the verge of reaching 100,000 confirmed cases,” the WHO’s director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a briefing. “It (the epidemic) is geographically expanding and deeply concerning.”
“We are continuing to recommend that all countries make containment their highest priority,” he added.
In fact the tally of cases has already surpassed 100,000 – as the WHO’s figures have generally slightly lagged behind tallies compiled by news organisations including Reuters. As of Friday, more than 100,300 people have been infected globally, according to a Reuters tally based on statements from health ministries and government officials.
Facebook closes London office after employee diagnosed with coronavirus
Facebook has closed its London offices after one of its employees tested positive for Covid-19.
The social media giant said it had told its London-based staff to work from home after one person tested positive for the new virus.
Facebook said in a statement: “An employee based in our Singapore office who has been diagnosed with Covid-19 visited our London offices February 24-26, 2020.”
“We are therefore closing our London offices until Monday for deep cleaning and employees are working from home until then.”
Vatican reports first coronavirus case
The Vatican on Friday reported its first coronavirus case and closed some offices to protect hundreds of the micro-state’s priests and residents.
The confirmed case prompted a sympathetic message from the Pope and all but emptied Saint Peter’s Square.
The patient tested positive on Thursday for Covid-19 at the Vatican health clinic, the Holy See’s spokesman Matteo Bruni told AFP without giving more detail.
On Friday, some offices of the Secretariate of State — the Vatican’s central government — were “closed as a precaution following a suspected case of Covid-19,” another Vatican source told AFP.
Pope Francis told his 18.1 million Twitter followers that he wished to “express again my closeness to those who are ill with the coronavirus and to healthcare workers who are caring for them”.
Fifth person dies in Spain from Covid-19
A fifth patient in Spain has died from the new coronavirus, after the number of people infected in the country jumped overnight from 102 to 365, health officials said.
All five people were in high risk categories: they were elderly or suffering from chronic illness, according to the Spanish Health Ministry.
The country reported its first death from the virus on Tuesday.
British officials try to assure public to prevent panic buying amid coronavirus fears
Britain’s most senior health minister attempted to assure the public on Friday after it emerged that people had been panic buying household provisions to cope with the coronavirus outbreak.
Panic buying that was first fuelled by the prospect of a no-deal Brexit has been further exacerbated by the breakout of the new virus, which has killed two people in Britain and been found in 163.
Swiss Covid-19 cases surge to 210 from 80
Switzerland has seen a spike in coronavirus infections today, rising to 210 cases from 80.
The European country confirmed its first death from the outbreak on Thursday, a 74-year-old woman who was being treated at the University Hospital of Lausanne. She also suffered from a chronic illness.
Two British Airways staff test positive for coronavirus
Two staff at British Airways have tested positive for Covid-19 in the UK.
The airline said the pair had been isolated and were recovering at home.
“Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed that two members of our staff, have tested positive for the Covid-19 virus,” the airline said.
British Airways says Public Health England has confirmed two members of BA staff have tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus
— Sky News Breaking (@SkyNewsBreak) March 6, 2020
Second coronavirus death confirmed in UK
A second person has died of the novel coronavirus in the UK, according to reports.
The person, said to be an elderly male in his 80s, died of Covid-19 while being treated at Milton Keynes Hospital, Buckinghamshire.
It is understood he had underlying health conditions.
Iran death toll jumps to 124
The coronavirus death toll in Iran reached 124 as Tehran threatened to use force to limit travel between cities in a bid to contain the rapidly spreading illness. The virus has reached all 31 provinces with 4,747 confirmed cases.
BREAKING: Global cases pass 100,000 mark
The arcgis.com coronavirus tracker reports more than 100,000 cases at 12.53pm GMT on March 6, 2020.
The number of coronavirus cases has reached 100,000, according to the John Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
South Korea suspends visa-free entry for Japanese nationals
South Korean soldiers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at the Daegu International Airport in Daegu on March 6, 2020. Yonhap/AFP
A diplomatic row is unfolding over coronavirus containment measures as the South Korean government has been angered by Japan’s decision to impose a two-week quarantine for visitors from South Korea. Seoul called the decision “unreasonable, excessive and extremely regrettable.”
In response the Korean government suspended visa-free entry for Japanese passport holders and summoned the Japanese ambassador to lodge a formal complaint.
Multiple countries report new cases
The Vatican, Cameroon, Slovakia, Serbia and Bhutan all reported their first cases of the virus on Friday, while the Netherlands and UK reported their first deaths from coronavirus.
The global number of cases is nearing 100,000 and the death toll has reached at least 3,280.
Malaysia: 28 new cases
The South East Asian country is now reporting 83 coronavirus cases.
Two new cases in Indonesia
Indonesia confirmed on Friday that two more people had tested positive for the coronavirus, taking the total of confirmed cases to four.
The two Indonesians were in their 30s and had been tested after being in contact with the first two confirmed cases, the health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said.
Indonesia had announced its first cases on Monday, a mother and her daughter who live in the Depok area near Jakarta.
Scammers send a different kind of virus to Italians
A spam campaign is sending fake emails disguised as WHO correspondence to Italian email addreses.
The country is grappling with the worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe and has nearly 4,000 cases.
The email contains a document purported to be a list of precautions that can be taken to prevent infection, but the attachment is filled with malware that is seeking to infect computers.
Stocks take another battering as coronavirus business disruptions worsen
Asian shares and US stock futures tumbled on Friday as the number of coronavirus cases continued to rise.
The S&P 500 fell 3.39 per cent. The index has skidded more than 10 per cent from its February 19 closing high, and last week saw its biggest weekly percentage decline since October 2008. The Dow was down 3.58 per cent and the Nasdaq 3.10 per cent.
The drop continued in Asia in morning trading on Friday. Japan’s Nikkei stock index closed down 2.72 per cent lower on Friday, a six-month low. Shares in China fell 1.22 per cent, while stocks in Hong Kong fell 2.12 per cent.
US stock futures erased early gains to trade down 1.21 per cent.
Oil prices also fell due to worries that non-Opec oil producers might not agree to proposed output cuts. Brent closed below $50 on Thursday for the first time since mid-2017.
Cases in Germany surge
The number of people infected with the coronavirus in Germany rose by 143 on Thursday, according to the Robert Koch Institute, a German federal agency.
A total of 543 people in Germany have been diagnosed with the deadly illness.
Schools in the Heinsberg district in north-west Germany will remain closed until March 15.
Middle East Film and Comic Con opens in Dubai despite coronavirus
Two women dressed as sword-wielding anime characters pose for a photograph at the Middle East Film & Comic Con in Dubai. AP Photo
The Middle East Film and Comic Con kicked off in Dubai on Thursday evening despite other events being postponed due to the coronavirus.
At the entrance, thermal cameras monitor eventgoers’ temperatures before they enter the venue hall at the Dubai World Trade Centre.
Since 2012, the Dubai version of the pop culture festival has been welcoming film, comic book and video game fans through its doors, most of whom perform cosplay as their favourite characters.
Organisers decided to push through with the festival, which runs until Saturday, March 7, amidst growing worry about the spread of Covid-19 at public events.
Across the UAE, events such as Taste of Dubai, Art Dubai, DJ Mag Conference and Yogafest Al Ain have been cancelled or postponed.
Mohamed bin Zayed and Bill Gates discuss strengthening disease control
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, discussed ways to enhance humanitarian co-operation in health as well as disease and epidemic control with Bill Gates in a telephone call, Wam reported on Friday.
Sheikh Mohamed and Mr Gates also spoke about the possibility of intensifying co-operation and joint work between the UAE’s humanitarian institutions and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to tackle the spread of the coronavirus, and to support the efforts of the international community, governments and societies to limit its spread.
Dubai Police official: allow three hours for health screenings at airports
Dubai Airports will screen passengers from high-risk countries to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. AFP
Passengers arriving to Dubai from high-risk countries linked to the Covid-19 outbreak have been urged to set aside two to three hours for health screenings at all ports of entry.
Major General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, commander-in-chief of Dubai Police, said preventive measures have been stepped up at airports and seaports in the emirate, after the Ministry of Health issued a travel advisory on Thursday.
Additional equipment, including thermal screening cameras, have been installed at various travel points across the city.
Maj Gen Al Marri said all passengers including residents, tourists and transit passengers, would be screened when entering the country.
Viral video shows Wuhan residents pleading ‘fake’ as senior Chinese official visits
When Chinese vice premier Sun Chunlan visited Wuhan on Thursday she was greeted by residents yelling from their windows ‘fake, fake, everything is fake’ as she inspected the city and it’s response measures to the virus that has killed over 2,900 people in Hubei province.
A video posted online shows quarantined residents in Wuhan’s Qingshan district shouting from their windows in a bid to alert Chunlan to their reality.
Residents have complained that the community’s property management was pretending to ask volunteers to deliver vegetables and meat to the residents but they were not actually receiving the goods, according to Chinese state media.
In the video, shouts of “formalism” are heard, a term that has recently been used by Chinese social media users who believe the government’s measures are more superficial than effective.
“It’s fake! It’s fake!” shout residents of a community in #COVID19 epicenter Wuhan in a viral video on China’s social media. They have accused property management of cheating them by only appearing to provide promised necessities. Investigation is underway https://t.co/kzq4gbB4RM pic.twitter.com/0ujObfedR8
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) March 6, 2020
Grand Mosque reopens in Makkah
The Kaaba, inside Mecca’s Grand Mosque, is shown to be empty of worshippers on Thursday in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. AFP
Two of Islam’s holiest sites reopened on Friday after they were sprayed with disinfectant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
On Thursday authorities closed the Grand Mosque in Makkah and Al Masjid Al Nabawy in Madinah.
State television relayed images of an empty white-tiled areas surrounding the Kaaba which is usually packed with tens of thousands of pilgrims.
Nearly 100,000 cases reported worldwide
Global coronavirus cases are nearing 100,000 as governments around the world scramble to implement containment measures that include limiting travel, closing schools, and employees working from home.
At least 3,280 deaths have been reported in 34 countries.
In the UAE, the number of cases reached 29 after a 16-year-old student was diagnosed on Thursday.
“This is not a drill,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization. “This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops.”
As Iran continues to be the Middle East’s coronavirus epicentre, with 107 deaths reported, the country is furthering their containment efforts by limiting travel between its major cities. Health Minister Saeed Namaki advised individuals not to use the shuttering of schools and other activities as an opportunity to travel. He also said Iranians should limit their use of paper banknotes.
With the number of coronavirus cases in New York state doubling in a single day, US congress approved an $8.3 billion (30B dirham) emergency budget to help fight the respiratory virus that has killed 14 people in the country.
The move comes after years of President Trump slashing funding to federal public health programs.
Meanwhile, business hubs such as Hong Kong and Beijing are testing the limits of remote working as their economies adapt to an increasing number of people putting themselves in precautionary isolation.
Bhutan bars foreigners after detecting first case
Bhutan shut its borders to foreign visitors for two weeks on Friday after a US tourist became the first person in the Himalayan kingdom to test positive for the Covid-19 virus.
The 76-year-old man arrived in Bhutan from India on Monday and was admitted to hospital on Thursday with a fever, the office of Prime Minister Lotay Tshering said in a Facebook post.
The post said there would be “two weeks’ restriction on all incoming tourists with immediate effect”.
The patient left Washington on February 10 and toured India from February 21 to March 1. Health officials say they have traced roughly 90 people he came into contact with in Bhutan. His 59-year-old partner, a driver and a guide have been placed in quarantine. Eight Indian nationals who were on the flight to Bhutan have also been quarantined.
China’s Hubei, excluding Wuhan, reports no new cases
China’s central province of Hubei, excluding the provincial capital Wuhan, reported zero new cases of coronavirus over 24 hours for the first time during the outbreak.
Wuhan reported 126 new confirmed cases on Thursday but there were no new infections in the province apart from those, the National Health Commission said on Friday.
Outside of Hubei, there were 17 new confirmed cases, bringing the total new infections in mainland China to 143 on Thursday, up from 139 cases a day earlier.
The overall accumulated number of confirmed cases in mainland China stood at 80,552 as of Thursday.
The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China was 3,042 as of the end of Thursday, up by 30 from the previous day.
NZ authorities issue warning after infected man attends packed rock concert
A person in New Zealand confirmed to have been infected was revealed on Friday to have attended a rock concert packed with thousands of other people.
Health authorities said the man in his 30s, who is the partner of a woman who was confirmed to have Covid-19 this week, attended the Tool concert at Spark Arena in Auckland on February 28.
The rock concert in New Zealand’s largest city was packed to capacity for two days last week.
“He was in the general admission standing area in the front left-hand quadrant,” Ministry of Health director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.
“We encourage people who were in the general admission standing area to be aware of symptoms of Covid-19.”
New Zealand so far has four confirmed cases of the virus, a much smaller number than Australia, where 60 cases have been recorded and two elderly people have died.
South Korea protests Japan’s quarantine plans
South Korea strongly protested Japan’s decision to impose a two-week quarantine for visitors from South Korea, calling it “unreasonable, excessive and extremely regrettable”.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday ordered a two-week quarantine for people arriving from South Korea while barring arrivals from highly affected areas starting on Saturday.
Seoul’s foreign ministry will summon the Japanese ambassador to lodge a complaint, after calling in a senior diplomat late on Thursday to request explanations, it said in a statement on Friday.
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