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Coronavirus: latest global developments

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Hong Kong pro-democracy district councillor Eason Chan (C) speaks to building security (R) before distributing face masks and cleaning products at an estate in Lam Tin in Hong Kong on March 14, 2020. – Hong Kong’s rival political camps have embraced a new tactic to woo potential voters as the city hunkers down during the coronavirus pandemic: free face masks. (Photo by ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP)


Iran toll rises to 5,500
Since the virus first emerged in late December, more than 143,400 cases have been recorded in 135 countries and territories, according to an AFP tally compiled at 1700 GMT on Friday based on official sources. The death toll tally stood at 5,402 before Iran announced 97 new virus deaths, taking its own fatalities tally to 611.

The worst affected countries in terms of fatalities are mainland China, with 3,176 deaths, Italy with 1,266 deaths and 611 in Iran.

Europe is the “epicentre” of the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

Britain changes tack on major events
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government would review its approach after he faced criticism for a light touch approach on large gatherings, government sources said with emergency legislation due next week in parliament to enable a ban to come into force from next weekend.

The legislation could see the cancellation of events such as the Wimbledon tennis tournament and the Glastonbury music festival, due to begin at the end of June, as well as major horse races including Royal Ascot and Grand National.

More borders close
Russia joined a growing lost of countries closing their borders, shutting its frontiers with Poland and Norway to foreigners. Moscow had already declared it is sharply to reduce air links with the 27-nation EU from Monday.

Lithuania, which has declared seven cases, said it will reinstate border controls and ban foreign travellers in a bid to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, Interior Minister Rita Tamasuniene said.

South Africans return from Wuhan
South Africa repatriated dozens of its citizens from Wuhan, the health ministry said, the first such move by a sub-Saharan country.

The 146 South Africans were working and studying in Wuhan city, which was placed under lockdown for around two months after the novel virus was first detected in December.

Apple shuts non-China stores
As cases rise in the United States, Apple CEO Tim Cook said overnight the company was closing all of its stores outside China until March 27 in a bid to slow the virus spread, looking to learn from steps taken in China, where the tech giant has just reopened its retail stores.

Elsewhere in the United States, Disney has already closed its giant theme parks in Florida, California as well as in Paris.

New York has banned gatherings of more than 500 people, including in Broadway theatres.

Austria steps up response
Austria, battling 602 declared cases to date, announced it had placed a third village in quarantine. Only foreign visitors will be able to leave Heiligenblut, a village of 1,000 people in the Carinthia region near the border with Italy and a popular alpine destination.

NZ acts on new arrivals
New Zealand has told new international visitors to the country to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. The country, with six declared cases to date, also abandoned its one-day cricket tour of Australia after Wellington tightened border restrictions to combat the virus spread.

First death for Ecuador
Ecuador announced its first death from the virus, a day after Bolivia, Venezuela, Paraguay and Peru suspended European flights and Argentina suspended links with the most badly affected countries.

First cases for Guinea, Mauritania, Rwanda
Registered cases are gradually spreading in Africa, with Guinea, Mauritania and Rwanda all listing their first cases over the past 24 hours.

Elections, primaries postponed
Local elections scheduled for May in part of Britain, including London, have been put off by a year. In the United States, the Democratic primary in Louisiana state, planned for April 4, is postponed.

Sport disrupted
Sport has suffered waves of cancellations. The German Football Federation calling off a March 31 friendly with Italy in Nuremberg. Germany and several other top European leagues, including England’s Premier League, have already cancelled league action. The US NHL ice hockey season has also come to a halt while in France all football games and professional rugby leagues are suspended.

Nine Italian footballers have the virus after Fiorentina’s Italian forward Patrick Cutrone and Argentine defender German Pezzella both tested positive for coronavirus, along with a club physiotherapist, the Serie A team said Saturday. The club’s Serbia forward Dusan Vlahovic has also contracted the virus.

Recession ‘very likely’
The European Central Bank (ECB) has predicted a considerable worsening of short term growth prospects, while the European Commission says it is “very likely” that there will be a recession this year.

The German government announces 550-billion-euros worth of loans to help the country’s businesses weather the coronavirus crisis.


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