South Africa reports second coronavirus case (Saturday 3/7/2020 - 17:24)
South Africa on Saturday confirmed a second case of the novel coronavirus, a 39-year-old woman who had travelled to Italy as part of a group with the first confirmed case.
The South African authorities said the woman had come into direct contact with the first case when they travelled back in a group of 10 from Italy on March 1.
On Thursday, the authorities said a man who was part of that group was the first case in the country.
"The second patient who has now tested positive for COV-19 will now be immediately admitted to a public health facility... that the government has identified as one of the hospitals that are ready to receive COVID-19 positive patients," the health ministry said in a statement.
Health Minister Zweli Mkize told national broadcaster SABC that the patient was being isolated at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg.
The ministry assured the public it had managed to secure information on the whereabouts of all the other people in the group that had travelled to Italy.
It also confirmed that a 39-year-old South African man working in Daegu, South Korea, has also tested positive for COVID-19.
Authorities said the man, who was due to return to South Africa, would remain where he was until details of his treatment in South Korea were verified.
The African continent now has more than 30 confirmed cases, including in Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
South Africa is meanwhile preparing to repatriate 184 of its citizens -- comprising students, teachers and other professionals working in China's Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged South Africans not to panic but also cautioned about the potential impact of the outbreak on the country's struggling economy.
"The important thing here is to avoid fake news... We must be responsible because we are dealing with a matter that can cause a lot of panic in society and we don't want to do that," Ramaphosa told journalists on Saturday.
Coronavirus: latest developments worldwide (Saturday 3/7/2020 - 15:42)
With new tolls and key developments, here is the latest in the coronavirus crisis.
More than 3,500 deaths
Across the world there have been more than 102,000 cases recorded in 94 countries and territories with 3,515 deaths, according to AFP's latest toll based on official sources at 1130 GMT Saturday.
The main countries affected are mainland China (80,651 cases, 3,070 deaths), South Korea (6,767 cases, 44 deaths), Iran, (5,823 cases, 145 deaths), Italy (4,636 cases, 197 deaths), Germany (684 cases, no deaths) and France (613 cases, nine deaths).
Colombia, Costa Rica and Malta have announced their first cases.
The coronavirus was detected in 21 out of 46 people tested on board the cruise ship Grand Princess, moored off the coast of California and holding a total of 3,533 passengers and crew members.
Russia has closed its borders to foreign travellers from Iran.
The European Central Bank (ECB) asked its 3,700 employees based in Frankfurt to carry out a day of telework on Monday, to test its emergency plan in the event of confinement.
Facebook has closed its offices in London and part of its premises in Singapore after an employee tested positive.
Nurseries and schools will be closed for two weeks from Monday in two French departments, Oise and Haut-Rhin, where outbreaks have occurred.
South Korean soldiers wearing protective gear move to spray disinfectant against the spread of the coronavirus at a railway station in Daegu on February 29, 2020. Photo / AFP
Chinese exports plunged 17.2 percent year-on-year in January-February.
Stock indexes and oil prices plunged again on Friday as investors sought safety in gold and US government bonds.
The big cultural festival South by Southwest, which was to be held in mid-March in Austin, Texas, is cancelled.
The Scotland-France rugby match scheduled for Saturday in Glasgow for the Six Nations women's tournament has been postponed after a Scottish player contracted the coronavirus.
The UN has asked nine countries, including China, South Korea and France, to delay their rotation of peacekeepers around the world by three months.
Dollars in quarantine
Dollar banknotes on their way back to the United States after being used in Asia are subject to quarantine, for a minimum period of 7-10 days instead of five previously, and up to 60 days.
With concern growing over stockpiling, a video on the internet shows three women in a Sydney store pulling each other's hair, shouting and fighting for a large package of toilet paper.
Iran coronavirus death toll jumps to 145, govt lashes out at US (Saturday 3/7/2020 - 18:57 )
Iran's official death toll from the new coronavirus rose by 21 Saturday, with a lawmaker among the latest fatalities, while the government accused Washington of hampering Tehran's response to the virus.
Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that the 21 deaths took the country's total death toll to 145, while 1,076 additional cases had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 5,823.
"More than 16,000 people are currently hospitalised as suspect cases," Jahanpour said during a televised news conference.
Iran has closed schools and universities until early April, and suspended major cultural and sporting events. (AFP Photo/ATTA KENARE)
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later said American sanctions -- reimposed from 2018, after Washington pulled out of a multilateral nuclear deal -- were undermining Iran's battle against coronavirus.
US President Donald Trump "is maliciously tightening US' illegal sanctions with the aim of draining Iran's resources needed in the fight against #COVID-19 -- while our citizens are dying from it" Zarif tweeted on Saturday.
"The world can no longer be silent as US #EconomicTerrorism is supplanted by its #MedicalTerrorism," he said.
Jahanpour said Saturday that 1,669 people who were sick with the COVID-19 illness have recovered.
The Islamic republic is battling one of the world's deadliest outbreaks of the disease outside China.
On Saturday, a newly elected conservative Tehran lawmaker became the second legislator to be killed by the virus, state news agency IRNA reported.
Fatemeh Rahbar, 55, served as a lawmaker from 2004 to 2016 and won a seat in February's legislative election.
Seven other politicians and government officials have died in Iran's outbreak.
The capital Tehran remains the worst-hit province in the country, although all 31 provinces have reported infections.
Iran has closed schools and universities until early April, and suspended major cultural and sporting events.
The number of infections is climbing in northern provinces in particular, Jahanpour said.
More than 300 of the new cases reported on Saturday were in Mazandaran, a popular tourist destination on the Caspian sea.
Jahanpour said that the province had been hit by people travelling there for holidays, which he described as ill-avised.
Several provinces, including in northern and central Iran, have said they will not accomodate tourists in an effort to dissuade people from travelling.
Police in Gilan and Mazandaran from Friday started preventing cars without local license plates from entering the provinces.
But according to an adviser to the health minster Alireza Vahabzadeh, some locals were bypassing the restrictions by giving non-residents lifts across provincial borders.
Like all areas of Iran's economy, the health sector has struggled in the face of renewed US sanctions.
Humanitarian goods, especially medicine and medical equipment, are technically exempt.
But international purchases of such supplies are forestalled by banks wary of conducting any business with Iran for fear of falling foul of the US sanctions.
Representatives of the World Health Organization currently in Iran praised the country's healthcare system.
"Iran has one of the strongest healthcare systems of all the countries in the eastern Mediterranean region," said delegation head Richard Brennan at a press conference in Tehran.
"Elements of the response here (to the outbreak) have progressed further than in a number of other countries," he added.
WHO's representative in Iran, Christoph Hamelmann, said his organisation can help cushion "the impact of unilateral sanctions on the health sector, mainly through assistance with procurement and supply of essential medicines."
Pope goes livestream to fight viral epidemic (Saturday 3/7/2020 - 17:38 )
Pope Francis decided to deliver Sunday's prayer by livestream and Italy called in retired doctors as the new coronavirus epidemic gathered strength and emptied streets in Europe's worst affected country.
The 83-year-old pontiff broke with centuries of tradition by enlisting the help of technology to keep crowds from descending on Saint Peter's Square for the traditional Angelus Prayer.
"The prayer will be broadcast via livestream by Vatican News and on screens in Saint Peter's Square," the Vatican said in a statement.
It had originally promised to review the Argentine-born pope's schedule "to avoid the dissemination" of the new COVID-19 disease.
The Vatican appears to believe that the pope's absence from his traditional spot at the window will keep the crowds on the vast square down and the threat of contagion low.
The pope himself has been out of action for more than a week with a cold.
The Vatican is in the process of unrolling unprecedented health precautions designed to keep the city state's 450 mostly elderly residents safe.
It recorded its first COVID-19 infection on Thursday and was awaiting the results of a test on another person who appeared at a Vatican-organised event last month.
That conference was also attended by Microsoft President Brad Smith and European Parliament President David Sassoli.
The Vatican said all those present were being notified about the test as a precaution.
Coalition leader gets virus
The Italian government finds itself at the forefront of the global fight against an epidemic that has convulsed the markets and paralysed global supply chains since first emerging in China late last year.
Ministers decided at an all-night emergency meeting to call in retired doctors as part of an effort to bolster the strained healthcare system with 20,000 additional staff.
Italy's death toll ballooned by a single-day record of 49 on Friday and now stands at 197 -- the most outside China itself.
The head of the Italian ruling coalition's junior partner became the latest high-profile figure to confirm coming down with the new disease.
"I am fine," the Democratic Party's Nicola Zingaretti said on Facebook. "I will have to stay home for the next few days."
The accelerating spread of the illness emptied Italian train stations and turned usually thronged parts of Rome into a ghost town.
Many of the city's outdoor restaurants and cafes were either closed on Friday night or had free tables overseen by forlorn staff with little to do but chat.
The expansive street that runs from Rome's Colosseum along the Forum was deserted and the magnificent ruins stood in their natural splendour -- and without being swarmed by tourists -- on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
'Focus on containment'
The sharp drop in visitor numbers is wreaking havoc with the Italian tourism industry and contributing to fears that the anaemic economy is about to tip back into recession.
But the government's most immediate concern is the threat of infections that had been largely contained to pockets of the richer north spreading to the poorer and the south where medical services are weaker.
The World Health Organization urged the Italian government on Friday to keep "a strong focus on containment measures".
The government said its medical recruitment drive should increase the number of intensive care beds from 5,000 to 7,500 in the coming days.
The number of Italians receiving intensive care treatment for COVID-19 reached 462 on Friday.
The total number of coronavirus infections grew to 4,636.
Italy's mortality rate now stands at a relatively high 4.25 percent and may be explained by its older population which is more susceptible to the virus.
The death rate is 0.68 percent in South Korea and 3.81 percent in China.
"We should not forget that Italy has an older population than China -- 44.3 years compared to an average of 37.4 years," Italian National Institute of Health head Silvio Brusaferro said.
Togo confirms first coronavirus case
Togo on Friday confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus after a 42-year-old woman tested positive following her return from a trip to Benin, Germany, France and Turkey.
The presidency in the West African nation of eight million people said the patient, who lives in the capital Lome with her family, was "currently isolated in a treatment centre for infectious diseases" after testing positive on Thursday.
"From February 22 to March 2, 2020 she visited Benin, Germany, France and Turkey before returning to Togo via the land border with Benin," the presidency said in a statement.
It said all people who had contact with the patient in the country "have been identified and put in quarantine".
In sub-Saharan Africa, Senegal has registered four cases, all foreign nationals, and South Africa, Nigeria and Cameroon have one case each since the outbreak emerged in December in China.
Cameroon has confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus, a French national who arrived in the capital Yaounde in February, the government said on Friday.
The man, 58, has been placed in isolation in a hospital, the health ministry said in a statement.
In sub-Saharan Africa, Senegal has registered four cases, all foreign nationals, and South Africa and Nigeria have one case each since the outbreak emerged in December in China.
The Vatican on Friday reported its first coronavirus case, saying it had suspended outpatient services at its health clinic after a patient tested positive for COVID-19.
The clinic inside the tiny city state -- which has some 1,000 residents -- will be deep cleaned, while the emergency room will remain open, spokesman Matteo Bruni told AFP.
The patient tested positive on Thursday.
The clinic is used by priests, residents and employees -- including those now retired -- as well as their relatives.