Updated: March 5, 2020 10:29:10 pm
The coronavirus outbreak has been reported in over 80 countries, with the death toll pegged at 3,280 and 95,400 people infected. Of these, China has reported 3,012 deaths and 80,409 positive cases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Wednesday said the mortality rate of the virus was 3.4 per cent. In comparison, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) killed about 10 per cent of patients infected, while the seasonal flu’s death rate is 0.1 per cent.
After China, South Korea accounts for the most number of cases at 5,766, with 35 deaths. In Italy, meanwhile, over 100 deaths have been reported and more than 3,000 people infected by the virus. Iran has also announced that the death toll as on Thursday is 107. Iran and Italy have the world’s highest death tolls outside of China.
Besides, almost 300 million students worldwide faced weeks at home with Italy and India the latest to shut schools over the deadly new coronavirus, as the IMF urged an all-out global offensive against the epidemic.
Coronavirus and the global economy
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected a lower growth rate for 2020, below the 2.9 per cent expansion achieved in 2019. In January, it had estimated a 3.3 per cent growth as US-China trade tensions eased. Addressing the press, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said the spread of the virus would take global output gains to their slowest pace since the 2008 financial crisis.
The Fund also announced a $50 billion package to help poor and middle-income countries with weak health systems respond to the epidemic.
Asian shares rallied for the fourth consecutive session Thursday, tracking US markets. Dow surged 4.5 per cent, while the S&P 500 gained 4.22 per cent and the Nasdaq 3.85 per cent. Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.9 per cent; Australian shares traded 1.1 per cent higher and Shanghai blue chips put on 1.3 per cent.
In India, the Sensex jumped nearly 300 points in early trade, while the broader Nifty rose nearly 50 points.
Iran announces 15 more deaths, total toll rises to 107
Iran Thursday announced 15 more deaths, raising the total number of casualties due to coronavirus to 107. It has also said that at least 3513 cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed so far. Tehran’s health minister has also said that schools and universities will be closed until early April because of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, as reported by AFP.
“People should not consider this as an opportunity to go travelling. They should stay home and take our warnings seriously,” Saeed Namaki said at a televised press conference.
The country announced that it will be setting up checkpoints to limit travel between major cities and urged citizens to reduce their use of paper money to fight a spreading outbreak of the new coronavirus.
China’s Belt and Road Plan is getting lashed by coronavirus
The deadly coronavirus outbreak is prompting delays and disruptions to China’s construction and investment plans overseas, risking years of planning and hundreds of billions of dollars in economic diplomacy.
IMF to make USD 50 billion in aid available for low-income countries
The IMF said it was making USD 50 billion in aid available for low-income and emerging-market countries to fight the epidemic, which it sees as a “serious threat” that would slow global growth to below last year’s 2.9 per cent. “At a time of uncertainty… it is better to do more than to do not enough,” IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said.
Japan to quarantine all passengers arriving from China, South Korea
Japan will quarantine all passengers arriving from China and South Korea, the country’s prime minister said Thursday, as the government ramps up measures to contain an outbreak of the new coronavirus. “We will strengthen immigration quarantines on people from the two countries,” Shinzo Abe told a cabinet-level task force meeting on the virus.
We will ask them to stay in designated areas for two weeks and not to use public transport,” Abe added, saying the measures would come into force from March 9.
France death toll rises to six, 92 new cases: official
The French health ministry reported Thursday two more deaths from coronavirus infections, bringing the country’s total to six, and 92 new cases since Wednesday. It was the biggest one-day jump in the number of French cases since the outbreak began, raising the total to 377.
Countries around the world are evacuating citizens, diplomatic staff
Here are some countries’ evacuation plans, and how they aim to manage the health risk from those who are returning.
* Hong Kong arranged four flights to bring back 533 of its residents from the Chinese province of Hubei. The flights are set to return by March 5 and those coming back face a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
* Over 200 Hong Kong residents on the Diamond Princess cruise in Japan had been flown back by Feb. 23 and are spending two weeks in quarantine. Authorities said 70 of the 364 Hong Kong residents on the ship were infected and will remain in Japan along with other citizens who were in close contact with them.
* Dependants and some staff were evacuated from the British embassy in Tehran as of March 1 but essential staff will remain.
* Some 30 British passengers arrived back home on Feb. 22 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. There were more than 70 British passengers on the cruise liner when cases of Covid-19 started to emerge.
* Britain’s final evacuation flight from Wuhan, carrying more than 200 people, landed in Britain on Feb. 9. A plane carrying 83 British and 27 European Union nationals from Wuhan landed at the end of January.
* Taiwan flew back 19 passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship on Feb. 21. It evacuated 247 of the estimated 500 Taiwanese stranded in Wuhan on Feb. 3. (https://bit.ly/2HOfYtg)
* A flight carrying 129 Canadians evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship landed on Feb. 21. All repatriated passengers on the chartered flight had tested negative. There were 256 Canadians on board the ship, of which 47 have tested positive.
* Canada, after evacuating 215 people earlier, flew back 185 citizens from Wuhan on Feb. 11. All evacuees were quarantined for two weeks.
* More than 150 Australians arrived home on Feb. 20 to begin two weeks of quarantine after finally leaving the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan.
There are two types of coronavirus, say researchers
Scientists in China believe there are two types of coronavirus that are causing infections. A preliminary study conducted by researchers from Peking University showed an aggressive type associated with the outbreak in Wuhan, which accounted for about 70 per cent of analysed strains, while 30 per cent was linked to a less aggressive type, reported Reuters.
“These findings strongly support an urgent need for further immediate, comprehensive studies that combine genomic data, epidemiological data and chart records of the clinical symptoms of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” they wrote.
Coronavirus outbreak in the US: Toll rises to 11
A resident of California succumbed to the coronavirus on Thursday, taking the toll due in the country to 11. This was the first fatality outside Washington state. The victim was an elderly person and had returned in February from a San Francisco-Mexico cruise, raising fears that more people could have contracted the infection on board.
The ship, which is currently docked off Mexico, has been recalled to San Francisco. According to a report in The Associated Press, passengers on board The Grand Princess have been asked to isolate themselves in their cabins and contact a doctor if they develop any symptoms of the virus.
According to NYT, at least 11 passengers and 10 crew members were showing symptoms of the virus. It quoted California Governor Gavin Newsom as saying at least 2,500 people had been aboard the ship.
Japan keen to host Olympics despite coronavirus outbreak
Japan has said it is committed to hosting the Olympics in July, despite COVID-19 spreading to new parts of the country — one case has been reported in the Shiga prefecture. Japan’s Olympics minister told Parliament Thursday: “Based on the fact that the IOC never mentioned about cancelling or postponing the Tokyo Games at its meeting yesterday, I don’t expect a cancellation notice or anything of that sort.” Japan has confirmed 1,036 cases of coronavirus.
Not just the Olympics, the sporting world has taken a big hit due to coronavirus. In Italy, for instance, all major events will be played without fans for one month. This includes top-flight Serie A soccer games.
As summer approaches, scientists are watching whether the novel coronavirus will be affected by temperature. Temperature did affect the spread of the SARS-CoV infection, which also spreads by droplets like COVID-19. On the other hand, the MERS coronavirus spread in Saudi Arabia in the month of August. So, it's too early to say whether heat will kill the coronavirus.
In drastic step, Italy bishops cancel weekday Masses
In a step believed to be unprecedented, Italy’s bishops Thursday ordered that Masses not be held during the week in churches in areas of the north of the country affected by coronavirus. It’s widely believed to be the first such step taken in the country, the worst hit in Europe. Masses were not even cancelled when the plague struck Milan in the 17th century.
A statement from the bishops’ conference said Masses would not be held from Monday to Saturday in churches in the Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia Romagna region as well as in the provinces of Savona in the Liguria region and Pesaro and Urbino in the Marche region.
Virus could cost airlines USD 113 bn revenue in 2020
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the airline industry could lose up to USD 113 billion in revenue this year due to the impact of the new coronavirus, an industry body warned Thursday, as the epidemic spreads rapidly worldwide. It estimated that revenue losses to airlines’ passenger business of between USD 63 billion and USD 113 billion — with the higher figure for a scenario where the virus spreads more widely.
Other global news on the coronavirus outbreak
* The outbreak of the disease has led to Saudi Arabia banning pilgrims from visiting the holy city of Mecca. Iran has also cancelled Friday’s Islamic prayers in all major cities.
* Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain’s economy was very robust and the government would give businesses the support they need to get through the coronavirus outbreak.
* The Louvre in Paris has reopened after a three-day closure. Employees have been briefed and measures have been taken — such as distributing disinfectant gels and giving staff time to wash their hands — in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Now, staff will only have to stand at the entrance to the room where Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ is kept, rather than inside. The museum will also no longer accept cash.
* In Israel, the country’s chief rabbi urged observant Jews to refrain from kissing the mezuza, the small box containing a prayer scroll that is posted by Jews on their doorposts. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also urged people to adopt the Indian greeting of “namaste”, with hands together, rather than a handshake.
* In Daegu, the South Korean city at the centre of that country’s outbreak, a shortage of hospital space meant about 2,300 patients were being cared for in other facilities while they awaited a hospital bed. Prime Minister Chung Se-Kyun sought to assure people in the southeastern city, saying, “We will win the war against COVID-19.”
* British artist Eric Drass has released what he says is the ‘sound of COVID-19’. He has based his track on the DNA sequence of the coronavirus after the genome sequence was released by The National Center for Biotechnology Information of the NIH. He then converted the sequence into musical notes.
Coronavirus outbreak in India: Toll 30; Govt in touch with Iran
The number of people infected by the coronavirus in India rose to 30 on Thursday, including 16 Italian tourists and their driver, three people in Kerala (who have recovered), one in Hyderabad, two in New Delhi, one in Ghaziabad, and six in Agra. The government has ramped up efforts to screen passengers arriving from other countries.
The latest was from Ghaziabad, where a local tested positive for coronavirus. “A Ghaziabad local has been confirmed positive of Coronavirus. The patient had travelled to Tehran earlier. The administration tracked him down three days ago following which he was sent to Delhi and is currently receiving treatment. The patient’s wife and child are being kept in observation at home. Another sample of a local has been sent who had also travelled to an infected region. That result is awaited. A health advisory will be issued soon,” Ajay Shankar Pandey, DM Ghaziabad, said.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan gave a statement in Parliament today on how India is tacking the virus. He claimed measures have been taken since January 17 this year. “I am reviewing the situation daily. A Group of Ministers is also monitoring the situation,” he told members.
With an estimated 1,200 Indians stranded in Iran, Vardhan also said the government was in touch with the West Asian nation regarding evacuation of its nationals.
Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar later said a medical team would reach Iran today, and a screening clinic would be set up at Qom by this evening. “Screening process will start immediately thereafter. Working on logistics of return with Iranian authorities,” he tweeted.
(With inputs from agencies, NYT)
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