The coronavirus has now spread to seven Middle Eastern countries, with more than 79,000 cases of the infection worldwide.
Kuwait, Bahrain and Afghanistan on Monday reported their first infections from the coronavirus, which has killed more than 2,600 globally, the vast majority in China.
Kuwait reported three cases, while Bahrain confirmed one, bringing the number of countries in the Middle East with the virus, known as COVID-19, to seven.
Meanwhile, Turkey, Pakistan and Armenia have closed their borders with Iran, as authorities reported 43 coronavirus infections and 12 deaths.
China had 150 new confirmed deaths from the coronavirus on Sunday, the National Health Commission announced, pushing the death toll nationwide to 2,592 among 77,150 confirmed cases, while South Korea’s cases continued to balloon, reaching 833 with seven confirmed deaths.
And in Italy, at least 152 cases and four deaths have been reported in the country’s north, prompting emergency measures in Europe.
Here are the latest updates:
Monday, February 24
Iranian health ministry says death toll remains at 12
Twelve people have died and up to 61 have been infected with the new coronavirus, Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi has said during a news conference on state TV, rebutting claims from a member of parliament that 50 people had died in the country from the virus.
“We will announce any figures (we have) on the number of deaths throughout the country. We pledge to be transparent about the reporting of figures,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said in a news conference aired live on state television.
Iranian member of parliament says the death toll in Qom is 50
A staggering 50 people have died in the Iranian city of Qom from the new coronavirus this month, a member of parliament from the city of Qom has said, according the semiofficial ILNA news agency.
“He is accusing the health ministry of not being transparent with the official death toll, he claims that more than 50 people have already died from the virus in Qom,” Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Tehran, said. “Now this is something the health ministry has not confirmed yet.”
China postpones parliament for first time in decades
China has decided to postpone the annual meeting of its parliament due in March for the first time since the Cultural Revolution, as the country fights to contain the coronavirus outbreak, state media reported.
The standing committee of the National People’s Congress will decide on a new date later, state broadcaster CCTV said.
EU: Any travel restrictions should be proportionate, coordinated
European Union health commissioner Stella Kyriakides has said possible travel restrictions in the Schengen border-free area should be proportionate and coordinated among EU states, as the bloc faces a coronavirus outbreak in Italy.
“For the moment WHO has not advised imposing restrictions on either travel or trade,” Kyriakides told reporters on Monday, adding that a mission of the World Health Organization will go to Italy on Tuesday to assess the situation
South Korea top flight postpones start of season due to coronavirus: Report
South Korea’s professional football league has postponed the start of the new season due to the surge in coronavirus cases in the country, Yonhap news agency reported.
The K League made the decision to postpone all matches at an emergency board meeting in Seoul. The 2020 season had been due to kick-off on Saturday. The league had also asked its four teams in the AFC Champions League, the continent’s elite club competition, to hold matches behind closed doors, Yonhap reported.
South Korea reports 70 new cases
South Korea has reported 70 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total in the country to 833 infections, according to health authorities.
Fourth person dies in coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy: RAI radio
A fourth person infected with the coronavirus has died in Italy, RAI radio has reported, as officials struggle to contain an outbreak of the illness in the north of the country with around 150 cases reported since Friday.
The dead patient was in his 80s and had been in hospital for treatment for an unrelated illness when he was struck down by coronavirus, RAI said. The three other people who have died of the illness were also elderly and at least two of them had been suffering serious underlying health problems.
Iran coronavirus death toll rises by four to 12: Report
Four more people have died of coronavirus in Iran, a spokesman for parliament has said, bringing to 12 the country’s overall death toll from the outbreak.
“The minister of health announced the deaths of 12 people and 47 cases of infection in the country,” Assadollah Abbassi was quoted as saying by semi-official news agency ISNA after a closed session of parliament.
WHO says it has phased out use of ‘pandemic’ to describe outbreaks
The World Health Organization (WHO) no longer has a process for declaring a pandemic, but the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak remains an international emergency, a spokesman said.
“There is no official category (for a pandemic),” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said. “WHO does not use the old phasing system that some people may be familiar with from 2009. Under the IHR (International Health Regulations), WHO has declared a public health emergency of international concern.”
China not considering travel advisories
China’s foreign ministry said on Monday that Beijing was not considering issuing travel advisories for countries such as South Korea and Japan that are reporting an increase in coronavirus cases.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made the remarks during a press briefing in Beijing
Afghanistan confirms first case, declares provincial state of emergency
Afghanistan’s minister of public health has said the country had identified its first case of coronavirus.
Ferozuddin Feroz, the minister of public health, told a press conference in Kabul one of three suspected cases had been confirmed in the Western province of Herat. He announced a state of emergency in the province, which borders Iran.
French minister: No need to close border with Italy
French junior transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari has said that he saw no need to close down transport borders between France and Italy, despite the spread of coronavirus.
“Closing down the borders would make no sense, as the circulation of the virus is not just limited to administrative borders,” Djebbari told BFM Business, referencing the recent outbreak in Italy, where cases have risen to more than 150.
Virus epicentre Wuhan revokes announcement easing lockdown
An announcement that the Chinese city of Wuhan would relax some of its travel restrictions and allow some people to leave was made without authorisation and has been revoked, the local government said.
The city at the epicentre of a coronavirus outbreak said it would continue to impose strict controls over its borders in order to prevent the virus from spreading further. It added it had reprimanded the people responsible for the earlier announcement that healthy people would be allowed to leave if they had vital business.
Qatar to quarantine passengers arriving from Iran, South Korea
Qatar will ask passengers arriving from Iran and South Korea to remain in home isolation or a quarantine facility for 14 days over fears of new coronavirus outbreak, Qatar Airways said in a statement.
Qatar has not yet reported a confirmed case of the virus.
Restrictions placed on some Lebanon residents
Lebanon’s health ministry has asked parents who recently visited countries severely affected by the coronavirus outbreak not to send their children to school for 15 days, Lebanon’s health minister has said, according to local media.
“In accordance with the education minister, we ask parents who were in Iran or in countries that have been found to have coronavirus infections not to send their children to school or university for 15 days as a precautionary measure,” Health Minister Hamad Hasan told local TV channel LBCI. Lebanon confirmed its first case on Friday.
Iraq closes border crossing with Kuwait amid coronavirus spread
Iraq has shut its Safwan border crossing with Kuwait to travellers and trade at Kuwait’s request, the local mayor has told Reuters news agency without providing a reason.
Kuwait said on Monday three people, including a Saudi national, who returned from Iran were infected by the new coronavirus. Meanwhile, Iraq extended on Saturday an entry ban for any non-Iraqis coming from Iran, which has so far said it had confirmed 43 cases and eight deaths.
China considers ‘complete ban’ on wildlife trade
China’s top legislative committee has begun deliberating a proposal to ban all trade and consumption of wild animals, a practice believed responsible for the country’s deadly coronavirus outbreak.
The official Xinhua news agency said the proposal was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), which is currently set to start its session next month, but is expected to postpone.
Kuwait, Bahrain confirm first coronavirus cases
Kuwait and Bahrain have confirmed their first cases of coronavirus, both of their state news agencies have reported.
Bahrain confirmed one case, a citizen arriving from Iran, the state news agency reported, citing the health ministry. Meanwhile, Kuwait had three cases, the state news agency KUNA reported, citing the ministry of health.
China says new coronavirus deaths increase with 150
Mainland China had 150 new confirmed coronavirus deaths on Sunday, the National Health Commission said on Monday, up from 97 the previous day.
In a statement, the commission also confirmed 409 new infections during the same period, down from 648 reported a day earlier.
The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases on the mainland is now 77,150, and 2,592 have died from the outbreak, the commission said.
Meanwhile, China announced that it will allow healthy non-residents of Wuhan to leave the epicentre of the virus.
Four Chinese provinces lower coronavirus emergency response level
Four Chinese provinces; Yunnan, Guangdong, Shanxi and Guizhou, on Monday lowered their coronavirus emergency response measures, local health commissions said.
Yunnan and Guizhou cut their emergency response measures from level I to level III, while Guangdong and Shanxi lowered their measures to level II.
China has a four-tier response system for pubic health emergencies that determines what measures it will implement, with level I the most serious.
Gansu province was the first to lower its measures on Friday, followed by Liaoning on Saturday.
South Korea reports 161 more coronavirus cases
South Korea reported 161 more cases of the new virus on Monday, bringing its total to 763 cases.
On Sunday, the country raised its disease alert to the highest level after a surge in infections and two more deaths.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in also ordered officials to take “unprecedented, powerful” steps to stem the spread of the outbreak.
Austria stops train from Italy due to suspected infections
Austria denied entry to a train from Italy on suspicion that two of the travellers might be infected with the coronavirus, Austria’s Ministry of the Interior said.
“Tonight a train on its way from Venice to Munich was stopped at the Austrian border,” the ministry said.
The Italian State Railways informed Austrian train operator OBB that there were two people with fever symptoms on the train, the ministry’s statement said.
The train was now waiting at the Brenner Pass in Italian territory. “The further procedure is currently being discussed together with Italian authorities.”
France, EU partners to discuss coronavirus: French health minister
French Health Minister Olivier Veran said he would talk to his European counterparts soon to discuss how to best cope with a possible epidemic risk in Europe as Italy battles an explosion in cases.
“Tonight there is no epidemic in France. But there is a problematic situation at the door, in Italy, that we are watching with great attention,” Veran told a news conference.
“The situation tonight is very evolutive at [the] international level,” he added. “I spoke with my Italian and German counterparts … We have agreed to have a discussion between several European health ministers, probably next week, to assess how we can together face epidemic risk,” he said.
A third person dies in Italy
A third person infected with the coronavirus died in Italy, a regional official said, as the government struggles to contain an outbreak of the illness in the north of the country with more than 130 cases reported since Friday.
Lombardy regional councillor Giulio Gallera told reporters the victim was an elderly woman from the province of Cremona in the Lombardy region.
The woman was also suffering from cancer, Gallera said.