Governments around the world are scrambling to contain the spread of COVID-19, which is growing globally even as transmission in China, where the virus originated at the end of last year, continues to show signs of slowing.

There are more than 93,000 cases around the world – the overwhelming majority in China – but as deaths are reported in Italy, Iran and the United States, authorities are considering new quarantine zones and travel restrictions.

As the number of deaths rose in Iran and Italy, Poland, Morocco, Andorra, Armenia and Argentina all confirmed their first cases of the virus in the past 24 hours.

Here are the latest updates:

Wednesday, March 4

15:46 GMT – Third case in New York

A student in New York tested positive for COVID-19, marking the third case in the state.

Yeshiva University said it was canceling all classes at one of its four New York City campuses as a “precautionary step” while it worked with authorities on how to best prepare and keep its students safe.

The university did not identify the student.

The latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed 108 confirmed and presumed cases in the United States.

15:33 GMT – Pet dog confirmed positive for virus in Hong Kong

A pet dog of a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong was confirmed to be infected with the disease, in a likely case of human-to-animal transmission, local authorities said.

The city’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said repeated tests suggest the dog has “a low-level of infection”. The canine, which belongs to a 60-year-old woman patient, was quarantined at an animal centre.

The AFCD said experts from universities and the World Organisation for Animal Health have unanimously agreed that “it is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission”.

All pets of people in Hong Kong infected with the coronavirus will be quarantined for 14 days, starting Friday. Two dogs are already in isolation.

Dogs wearing masks are seen at a main shopping area, in downtown Shanghai
As a dog tested positive in what experts believe to be a human-to-animal transmission, all pets of people infected in Hong Kong will be quarantined. [Aly Song/Reuters]

15:15 GMT – Egypt bars Qataris over coronavirus fears

Qatari won’t be allowed to enter Egypt starting March 6 amid fears over the coronavirus, according to a decision taken by the Egyptian government. The ban includes those with a valid residency.

Qatar and Egypt are on opposite sides of a regional rift, and Cairo said it was responding to a similar measure taken by the Gulf state.

“In light of what Qatar has decided regarding prohibiting entry for travellers holding Egyptian nationality … as part of the precautionary measures to face the coronavirus, [we have] decided to implement the principle of reciprocity,” the cabinet said, adding the measure would be in place until further notice.

Qatar imposed a temporary restriction on entry to its territory on visitors from Egypt via intermediate points because of the virus’s spread. The ban did not specifically mention Egyptian nationals.

15:02 GMT – Thirty-four new cases in UK, raising total number up to 85

The number of people testing positive for coronavirus has jumped to 85 in the UK after 16,659 people were tested across the country, said the UK Department of Health and Social Care. As the country is trying to curb the spread of the virus, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised measures for workers who need to self-isolate.

Speaking at prime minister’s questions, he said: “We will take every step we can to make sure that … no one whether employed or self-employed – whatever the status of their employment – is penalised for doing the right thing.”

14:40 GMT – Virus rumours ‘provocative fake stories’ from abroad: Putin

False rumours about the new coronavirus circulating in Russia are being directed from abroad, President Vladimir Putin said.

He told ministers the country’s FSB security service reported to him that false information was being planted to create panic, while in reality the situation is not critical.

“As for these provocative fake stories, the FSB reports they’re mainly organised from abroad… The aim of such fake stories is clear: to spread panic among the public”.

He said Russia had to fight this by releasing “timely, comprehensive and trustworthy information”. The official total of confirmed cases in Russia is six so far.

14:35 GMT – London Book Fair cancelled

The London Book Fair, one of the world’s biggest publishing trade fairs taking place in London, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“It is with reluctance that we have taken the decision not to go ahead with this year’s event,” read a statement published by the book fair’s organisers, adding that the decision falls in line with the UK government guidelines and follows the advice of public health authorities.

14:22 GMT – Iran rejects US virus aid offer amid ‘vicious’ sanctions

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani dismissed a US offer to help the Islamic republic fight its coronavirus outbreak, charging that “vicious” American sanctions are depriving the country of medicine.

The US offer comes as the novel virus has affected almost all of Iran’s provinces, claiming 92 lives out of 2,922 confirmed infections in the past two weeks.

“Those who have deprived the people of even medicine and food through sanctions, who have done the most vicious things… they appear with a mask of sympathy and say that we want to help the nation of Iran,” Rouhani said, in a clear reference to the United States.

US President Donald Trump had said Saturday he was ready to aid Iran with the virus outbreak if the Islamic republic asked for assistance.

14:10 GMT – Paris museum reopens after virus fears

The most visited museum in the world opens again its doors after its employees stayed off the job since Sunday amid fear of infection. However, workers voted overwhelmingly to resume work.

“The Louvre Museum is open” read the latest tweet from the French museum’s official account.

Management presented a raft of new anti-virus measures to coax employees back to work. Among them: wider distributions of disinfectant gels and more frequent staff rotations so employees can wash their hands.

13:45 GMT – Facebook to help combat virus misinformation

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, is stepping up his effort to fight against virus-related misinformation.

“We’re focused on making sure everyone can access credible and accurate information,” Zuckerberg said in a post on his Facebook account.

“Given the developing situation, we’re working with national ministries of health and organizations like the WHO, CDC [US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and UNICEF to help them get out timely, accurate information on the coronavirus,” Zuckerberg posted, adding that the WHO will be given free advertising.

13:40 GMT – Iran cancels Friday prayers in major cities amid outbreak

Friday prayers in Iran have been canceled across all provincial capitals amid the country’s growing coronavirus outbreak, state television said.

Friday is the main congregational day of prayer in Islam, and traditionally an important event for Iran’s clerical rulers.

The announcement comes as Tehran and other areas canceled Friday prayers last week over the outbreak.

13:30 GMT – Italian tourists quarantined in India

A group of 17 Italian tourists taken to a quarantine facility in New Delhi have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The group entered India before the country began screening passengers from Italy. Their Indian tour bus driver was also found to be infected.

India has confirmed 28 cases of the coronavirus as of Wednesday, up from the earlier figure of five.

13:15 GMT – Italian govt to close schools, universities to contain coronavirus

The Italian government is preparing new emergency measures such as closing schools and universities across the country in a further attempt to contain the worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe.

A draft decree seen by Reuters spelled out the draconian steps, ordering “the suspension of events of any nature… that entail the concentration of people and do not allow for a safety distance of at least one metre to be respected”.

A government source told Reuters that schools and universities will also be closed nationwide, though this was not in the decree seen by the news agency, and the education minister said the decision had not yet been finalised.

12:49 GMT – Saudi Arabia suspends Umrah pilgrimage

Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended Umrah pilgrimages to the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina for Saudi citizens and the kingdom’s other residents over coronavirus concerns, the state news agency SPA said.

The decision will be reviewed regularly and reversed when the situation changes, SPA said, citing an official source in the Saudi interior ministry.

11:07 GMT – Iran death toll rises to 92

Iran’s health ministry said the coronavirus has killed 92 people, up from 77 the day before, while the number of infections rose to 2,922.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced the new figures at a news conference in the capital, Tehran.

The virus has sickened top leaders within the Islamic Republic’s government. Iran stands alone in how the virus has affected its government, even compared to hard-hit China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

10:45 GMT – Malaysia announces 14 new cases

Malaysian authorities announced 14 new cases of the coronavirus, adding that the spike was the result of a second wave of infections that began late last month.

“After 11 days of no reported cases, a second wave (of infections) began on the 27th February 2020,” Noor Hisham Abdullah, director-general of Malaysia’s health ministry, told a news conference in Putrajaya.

“This makes the total cases of COVID-19, so far, 50 cases, while 22 of them have been discharged,” he said.

10:36 GMT – Coronavirus affected almost all Iranian provinces

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the outbreak of novel virus has affected almost all of Iran’s provinces.

“This disease is a widespread disease,” he said, according to the official presidency website.

“It has reached almost all our provinces and in one sense it’s a global disease.”

10:32 GMT – Coronavirus deadlier than flu, but containable: WHO

COVID-19 has killed 3.4 percent of cases globally, a figure far above the seasonal flu’s fatality rate of below 1 percent, according to the WHO. But the global spread of the new virus can still be controlled.

09:43 GMT – Germany reports 44 new cases

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased to 240, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said.

According to RKI, fifteen of Germany’s 16 states have now reported cases of the virus, with North Rhine-Westphalia being most affected.

The meeting room of the coronavirus crisis management group
Coronavirus crisis management group in the western German district of Heinsberg near Aachen [Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters]

09:23 GMT – First death reported in Iraq

A 70-year-old man has died in northern Iraq after contracting the coronavirus, according to the official Iraqi News Agency.

The death in Sulaimaniyah, in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, is Iraq’s first coronavirus death.

The man was diagnosed after his health deteriorated, the report quoted the Sulaimaniyah health directorate as saying.

08:57 GMT – Median incubation period 5-7 days, maximum 14

The Chinese Medical Association has said the median incubation period of the new coronavirus is five to seven days and the maximum 14 days.

Speaking at a press event in Beijing, Du Bin, chairman of the Critical Care Medical Branch of the Association, also said that while in Hubei province some individuals tested positive for the virus even after being discharged from hospital after treatment, there is no data tracking such cases.

He added there was no evidence yet that such patients can transmit the virus – which originated in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, late last year – to others.

08:33 GMT – How the Gulf responded to the outbreak

Gulf countries have responded to the coronavirus outbreak by introducing travel bans, stepping up screening measures at entry points and rescheduling – in some cases cancelling – significant sports and cultural events.

Read more about the measures taken by Gulf countries aimed at curbing the spread of the virus here.

08:28 GMT – Takeda Pharmaceutical says developing coronavirus drug

Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd said it is developing a drug to treat high-risk individuals infected with the coronavirus.

The Japanese company said in a statement it is also studying whether its currently marketed and pipeline products may be effective treatments for infected patients.

“As a company dedicated to the health and well-being of people around the world, we will do all that we can to address the novel coronavirus threat,” Rajeev Venkayya, president of Takeda’s vaccine business, said in a statement.

08:19 GMT – France to regulate price of antibacterial gel

France will regulate the price of antibacterial gels after prices were reported to have shot up since the coronavirus outbreak began in December last year, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

A decree regulating the price will be published during the day, Le Maire told French BFM Business radio.

A pharmacists’ union on Wednesday said the price rise was unacceptable and called for government intervention.

08:12 GMT – Russia suspends export of masks

Russia has suspended the export of surgical masks and medical gear, including bandages and one-use chemical protection suits, according to a government resolution, amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus. It added that the suspension would not affect exports being made for humanitarian reasons.

Russia has not reported any confirmed cases of people contracting coronavirus while inside the country, though six people who got infected elsewhere have received or are receiving treatment in Russia.

“It is mainly necessary to prevent a so-called ‘artificial deficit’ in certain medical items – masks, respirators, antiviral agents that speculators can export abroad,” Industry Minister Denis Manturov said.

epa08267476 A passenger wearing a protective face mask travels on a Metro in Moscow, Russia, 03 March 2020. People with symptoms of acute viral respiratory infections who arrived to Moscow from countr
A passenger wearing a surgical mask travels on a Metro in Moscow [Maxim Shipenkov/EPA]

08:02 GMT – Poland confirms first case

Poland has confirmed its first coronavirus infection, Poland’s Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski said.

Szumowski said the patient is in hospital in Zielona Gora, western Poland, adding that he is in good condition.

07:55 GMT – India confirms new cases, bringing total number of cases to 28

India’s health minister has announced that 14 out of 21 Italian tourists have tested positive for the coronavirus.

In remarks to ANI news agency,  said the total number of cases in the country now stood at 28. All flights and passengers will now be subject to universal screening, he added.

07:47 GMT – Hong Kong residents due to arrive from Wuhan in first chartered flight

The first chartered flight evacuating residents of Hong Kong from Wuhan – the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak – is scheduled to arrive in Hong Kong at 09:10 GMT.

07:04 GMT – Greece confirms eighth case

Greece’s health ministry has confirmed one more case, bringing the total number of infected people in the country to eight.

The new case in the second city of Thessaloniki is a Greek citizen who is closely related to an earlier infected person.

06:47 GMT – Japan’s Hokkaido island reports three new cases

Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido reported three more cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the total to 82 in the prefecture, which  accounts for the highest number of infections among Japan’s prefectures.

The new cases are all men, one in his 50s and the other two in their 60s, the prefecture said on its website.

06:42 GMT – Ireland confirms second case

Irish health authorities have confirmed a second case of the coronavirus in a woman in the east of the country who recently travelled to northern Italy, according to Ireland’s Department of Health.

“Today we are confirming that Ireland has diagnosed one new case of COVID-19. The case arises in a female in the east of the country and is associated with travel from northern Italy,” Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer with the Department of Health told reporters.


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