Fears are mounting over the rise of coronavirus cases outside mainland China, with Iran recording a sixth death from COVID-19, as the disease is known, and South Korea reporting a surge in new infections.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was concerned about the jump in cases with no clear link to China, where the virus was first detected in late December, and called for urgent funding to support countries with weaker health systems.
In Italy, the worst-affected country in Europe, the virus has killed two people – a man and a woman in their 70s – and infected another 51 mostly in the north.
In total, China has reported 75,569 cases to the WHO, and 2,239 deaths.
According to available data, the disease remains mild in 80 percent of patients and severe or critical in 20 percent. The virus has been fatal in 2 percent of reported cases.
Here are the latest updates:
Sunday, February 23
Italy coronavirus infections jump to 79 cases
Italy’s prime minister announced a ban on people entering or leaving new coronavirus hotspots as the number of confirmed infections rose sharply to 79, in an outbreak that has claimed two lives in the country.
“In zones considered hotspots, neither entry or exit will be authorised without special permission,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said during a news conference, adding that businesses and schools in the areas would be closed.
The Italian outbreak is concentrated in the northern region of Lombardy. Officials raised the total confirmed cases to 79, from an earlier figure on Saturday of 39 in Lombardy, 12 in Veneto and 3 in Rome.
Saturday, February 22
Israel expands quarantine measures
Israel has expanded quarantine regulations, requiring all those returning from South Korea and Japan to remain in isolation for two weeks. Quarantine was previously mandated for Israelis returning from China, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau.
The move came as Israel’s health ministry said nine South Korean nationals who visited Israel and the West Bank in February have tested positive for the virus.
The Palestinian Interior Ministry issued a similar instruction on Saturday.
All the nine tourists returned to South Korea and it is currently unknown whether they were infected with the virus before or after arriving in Israel.
Is WHO mishandling the coronavirus response?
More and more countries are reporting cases of the new coronavirus, with WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warning that the window of opportunity for containment is narrowing.
The UN health agency has been criticised for a slow response to the epidemic, as well as previous health emergencies.
Al Jazeera’s Inside Story programme discusses whether a change in approach is needed.
Read more here and watch the full video below.
US raises travel advisory level for South Korea
The United States has raised the travel advisory level for South Korea to “Level 2: Exercise increased caution” as the number of coronavirus cases in the Asia Pacific nation surged to 433.
According to a statement on the US State Department’s website, travellers to South Korea should avoid contact with sick people and clean their hands often with soap and water.
Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions should discuss travel with their healthcare provider and consider postponing non-essential travel, the statement said.
Sixth death confirmed in Iran
Iranian officials have reported a sixth death from the new coronavirus.
The governor of Markazi province told the official IRNA news agency that tests of a patient who recently died in the central city of Arak were positive for the virus.
Ali Aghazadeh said the person was also suffering from a heart problem.
It is not clear whether the sixth death is included in the 28 cases confirmed by Iran earlier on Saturday.
Italian Serie B football match postponed
A football match in Italy’s second division was called off about one hour before the scheduled kick-off because of fears over the spread of the virus.
Italian news agency ANA said the Ascoli-Cremonese match was postponed because the visiting side are from the Lombardy region in the north of Italy where 30 cases have been reported so far.
Sports site Gazetta dello Sport said both teams were already at the stadium when they were told of the postponement and that a bus with Cremonese fans was turned back.
FARS: Cinemas and art events closed for a week in Iran
All cinemas and art events across Iran will be closed for one week to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus in the country, semi-official news agency FARS reported.