The coronavirus is spreading more quickly in Europe, the Middle East and other parts of the world than in China where the virus first emerged in the central city of Wuhan at the end of last year.
The number of new infections inside China was for the first time overtaken by fresh cases elsewhere on Wednesday, with Italy, Iran and South Korea emerging as new hotspots for COVID-19.
The disease was also detected for the first time in Estonia, Denmark, Georgia, Brazil, Pakistan, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Romania and Algeria.
Here are the latest updates:
Thursday, February 27
Greece reports two new coronavirus cases
Greece has reported two new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to three.
The health ministry said one of the cases concerned a relative of a 38-year-old woman in the northern town of Thessaloniki, the first confirmed case reported in Greece.
The woman had recently returned from Milan in northern Italy.
Virus quarantines must be ‘proportionate’, respect rights: UN
Countries should only use quarantine against the deadly new coronavirus when truly needed, and must respect the rights of those in isolation, the UN rights chief said.
Addressing the UN Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet hailed the medical teams around the world working to rein in the COVID-19 outbreak. But she said that respect for human rights needed to guide the response.
She also said the ongoing epidemic, which began in China, had “set off a disturbing wave of prejudice against people of Chinese and East Asian ethnicity”.
Japan to close schools nationwide
Japan will close schools nationwide to help control the spread of the new virus, the government announced.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he asked all elementary, middle and high schools to remain shut until spring holidays begin in late March.
The measure affects 12.8 million students at 34,847 schools nationwide, the education ministry said.
Swiss confirm three new coronavirus cases
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Switzerland has risen to four, the country’s health authority said.
In the western canton of Geneva one person was tested positive for the virus while it was also confirmed in a couple in the southeastern Alpine canton of Grisons, it added.
“All three patients are isolated in the hospital. Their condition is good,” the Federal Office of Public Health said.
Iranian official confirmed infected with coronavirus
Mojtaba Zonnour, head of Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Relations Commission says he is infected with COVID-19.
Zonnour, who is also a deputy from the country’s virus-hit Qom city, said in a video message that he is currently in quarantine.
Britain reports two new cases of coronavirus
The United Kingdom said two additional patients tested positive for the new coronavirus, which was passed on in Italy and Spain’s Tenerife. The latest cases raised the total number of infections to 15, including eight recovered patients.
Crew leaves Japan virus-hit ship for new quarantine
Crew members from a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship off Japan began leaving the vessel for a new quarantine on-shore after passengers left the boat, the government said.
“Today, 240 crew members are leaving the ship and this disembarking operation will continue for a couple of days,” a health ministry official told AFP news agency.
Those leaving the boat will be placed in medical observation for 14 days at government-designated dormitories before being allowed to leave Japan, they said.
Infected South Korean flight attendant worked Los Angeles route
A Korean Air flight attendant who worked on flights between Seoul and Los Angeles subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus, South Korea’s disease control agency and sources said.
The flight attendant worked on Korean Air’s flight KE017 from Seoul’s Incheon airport to Los Angeles on February 19, and on the return flight KE012 on February 20, Yonhap news agency and other media reported. A South Korean official familiar with the case verified those flight details.
“She took a flight after showing symptoms, and we are investigating people who had contact with the employee on the flight,” the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said in a statement.
Osaka city to close kindergartens, elementary, junior high schools
Japan’s Osaka city has decided to close all public kindergartens, elementary and junior high schools from February 29 to March 13 in a bid to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, Kyodo reported.
An Osaka city official said the municipal government was holding a meeting to discuss measures concerning the virus but that he was not aware of the reported decision.
Iran infection cases reach 245, deaths 26
Iran’s health ministry spokesman says the new coronavirus has killed 26 people amid 245 confirmed cases in the country.
Estonia confirms first coronavirus case
Estonia has confirmed its first coronavirus case in a man who returned from Iran, Russian news agencies TASS and Interfax reported on Thursday, citing Estonian health authorities.
“We are talking about a permanent resident of Estonia who is not a citizen of Estonia,” Interfax reported, citing Estonian Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik.
“According to my information, he is a citizen of Iran,” Interfax cited Kiik as telling Estonian TV.
Saudi Arabia halts travel to Mecca, Medina
Saudi Arabia halted travel to the holiest sites in Islam over coronavirus fears just months ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, as the Middle East recorded more than 220 confirmed cases.
Read more here.
Denmark confirms first coronavirus case
Denmark has confirmed its first coronavirus infection in a man who returned from a ski holiday in northern Italy, the Danish health authority said. The man was put in isolation in his own home.
Iraq announces sixth case of coronavirus
Iraq’s health ministry said a young Iraqi man in Baghdad tested positive after returning from Iran.
Virus strikes another blow at religious tourism in Iraq
Iraq’s vital religious tourism sector was already suffering after months of protests, political turmoil and sanctions hitting pilgrims from neighbouring Iran – then the novel coronavirus arrived.
In the southern Shia holy city of Karbala, hotels have closed and face masks are more common on the street than the full-length black veils worn by female pilgrims.
Visitors are scarce at the golden-domed tomb of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, despite twice-daily visits by health officials to sanitise the site.
North Korea extends school breaks over virus fears
North Korea has postponed the new school term to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, reports said, the latest measure as the ill-equipped country ramps up efforts to prevent a devastating outbreak.
Pyongyang has not reported a single case of the COVID-19.
“School breaks for students have been extended as a preventive measure against the infection,” the Korean Central Broadcasting Station reported, according to Yonhap news agency.
China asks low-risk areas to resume visa, passport services
Regions in China at low risk of the coronavirus should resume visa and passport services for both Chinese and foreign travellers to help the nation get back to work, immigration authorities said.
Medium-risk areas should do the same, depending on the state of the epidemic within their borders, the China Immigration Administration also said.
The immigration authority said on its official Weibo account that it would roll out measures to facilitate such moves, without providing further details.
World on brink of coronavirus pandemic, Australia’s Morrison says
There is every sign the world is about to be gripped by a pandemic of coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned, as Australia kicked off emergency measures to curb the spread of the disease.
“The advice we have received today is…there is every indication that the world will soon enter a pandemic phase of the coronavirus,” Morrison told a televised news conference in Canberra, the capital.
“As a result we have agreed today and initiated the…coronavirus emergency response plan,” he added.
Australia will extend a travel ban on foreigners arriving from China by at least another week, Morrison said, although there was as yet no need to stop mass gatherings.
China city offers $1,400 reward to virus patients who report to authorities
Qianjiang, a city of around one million people in China’s Hubei province, will pay residents as much as 10,000 yuan ($1,425.96) if they proactively report symptoms of the illness and it is confirmed after testing.
The city is located around 150km (90 miles) from the provincial capital of Wuhan, and has so far reported a total of 197 cases.
Hubei has reported more than 65,000 cases and more than 2,600 deaths.
India evacuates nationals, foreign citizens from Wuhan
An evacuation flight carrying 76 Indian citizens as well as a number of foreign nationals from Wuhan arrived back in India on Thursday.
It earlier delivered medical supplies to the city where the outbreak originated at the end of last year.
The IAF Flight to #Wuhan carrying medical supplies, brought back 76 Indian nationals (including 3 Indian Embassy officials who were on ground in Wuhan to coordinate the evacuation) and 36 foreign nationals. #CoronavirusOutbreak #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/mnyKNNhjgO
— Geeta Mohan گیتا موہن गीता मोहन (@Geeta_Mohan) February 27, 2020
China investigates release of coronavirus-infected inmate in Hubei
China has sent an investigation team to Wuhan after reports that a prison released an infected inmate who then managed to travel to Beijing.
A team led by the Ministry of Justice, Supreme Court and Ministry of Public Security will look into the incident, the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China said in a news release on Thursday.
Media reports said an infected inmate was released from a Wuhan women’s prison after completing her sentence. Family members then drove her to Beijing.
The report triggered an uproar on social media, as people asked how she could have escaped the sealed-off city.
Taiwan raises epidemic response level to highest
Taiwan on Thursday raised its epidemic response level to the highest, official media reported, amid growing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.
Taiwan’s Central News Agency said Premier Su Tseng-chang announced the decision in a cabinet meeting on Thursday, citing sporadic cases of community transmission on the island.
Taiwan has logged 32 cases of the coronavirus and one death, and has largely suspended travel and tourism links with China to curb its spread.
Japanese woman confirmed with coronavirus for second time
A woman working as a tour-bus guide in Japan has tested positive for the coronavirus for a second time, Osaka’s prefectural government said on Wednesday. She is the first person in the country to do so amid growing concerns about the spread of the infection.
The second positive test comes as the number of confirmed cases in Japan rose to 186 by Thursday from around 170 the day before.
New US coronavirus case may be first from unknown origin
A new coronavirus case in California could be the first in the US with no known connection to travel abroad or another known case, and a possible sign the virus is spreading in a community within the country, health officials said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the case on Wednesday.
California officials said the person is a resident of Solano County, northeast of San Francisco, and is getting medical care in Sacramento County. They did not immediately release any other details.
South Korea reports 13th death from coronavirus
The Mayor of Daegu, the city at the centre of South Korea’s coronavirus outbreak, said a 13th person had died from the infection on Thursday. The figure was not confirmed by the KCDC.
South Korea reports hundreds of new cases, raising total to 1,766
South Korea reported hundreds of additional cases of the new coronavirus, raising the total tally to 1,766, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.
China reports 433 new coronavirus cases, 29 deaths
Mainland China reported 433 new cases of coronavirus infections on February 26, the National Health Commission said on Thursday, up from 406 on the previous day.
The total number of confirmed cases on mainland China has now reached 78,497, the health authority said.
The number of new deaths stood at 29, the lowest daily rate since January 28, and down from 52 the previous day. A total of 2,744 people have now died as a result of the outbreak.
Hubei, the central Chinese province at the epicentre of the outbreak, reported 409 new cases and 26 deaths on Wednesday. Beijing and the provinces of Heilongjiang and Henan were the locations of the other three fatalities.
US, South Korea postpone joint exercises over virus
The US and South Korea postponed planned joint military exercises as a result of the coronavirus.
The decision to delay the training was made after Seoul declared its highest “severe” alert level over the virus, Combined Forces Command said, adding the postponement was “until further notice”.
The United States has 28,500 troops in South Korea.
Trump says US ‘very ready’ for virus; Pence to lead response
President Donald Trump declared on Wednesday that the US was “very, very ready” for the coronavirus and put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of overseeing the nation’s response.
Trump also sought to minimise fears of the infection spreading widely across the US, saying, “I don’t think it’s inevitable”.
He said the US might have to restrict travel to Italy, South Korea and other countries as a result of the outbreak, but now was not the right time.
Health authorities at the White House news conference said Americans should be ready for what could become a wider outbreak requiring such steps as school closures.
“Our aggressive containment strategy here in the United States has been working and is responsible for the low levels of cases we have so far. However, we do expect more cases,” said Dr Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Shanghai trying to find people who crossed patient from Iran
Shanghai is taking action to try and identify people who came into contact with a coronavirus patient who arrived in the city from Iran, the local government said.
The patient, who has not been identified, was diagnosed in Zhongwei, a city in the northwestern region of Ningxia, some 2,000km (1,240 miles) away, on Wednesday.
Authorities in Zhongwei said the patient arrived in Shanghai on February 20 after flying from Iran via Moscow. The patient then travelled to Zhongwei via the city of Lanzhou by train.
Trump says ready for coronavirus response on ‘much larger scale’
President Donald Trump said the US was prepared to escalate its response to the novel coronavirus on a “much larger scale” should the pathogen continue to spread.
“We do have plans for a much larger scale should we need that,” he said.
“We have hospitals in states that make rooms available and they’re building quarantine areas where you can keep people safely.”
Asked if the US had increased its stockpile of protective equipment such as face masks and gowns, he said: “We’ve ordered a lot of it, just in case we need it.”
IMF, World Bank consider ‘virtual’ Spring Meetings
Growing concerns inside the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank about the spread of the new coronavirus have prompted the institutions to consider scaling back their Spring Meetings in April or hold them by teleconference, people familiar with the discussions told Reuters.
The institutions’ April 17-19 Spring Meetings are scheduled to bring some 10,000 government officials, journalists, business people and civil society representatives from across the globe to a tightly packed, two-block area of central Washington DC.
Read updates from Wednesday, February 26 here.