Italy coronavirus toll soars as north sealed off

The coronavirus outbreaks in China and South Korea appear to be slowing, as countries elsewhere in the world adopt drastic measures to try and stamp out the infection.

In Italy, where some 16 million people in Lombardy and other parts of the north are now under quarantine, there were 133 deaths reported on Sunday, bringing the total to 366. More than 7,000 people in the country have been confirmed to have the virus.

In Iran, there were 49 new fatalities. Some 194 people have now died from COVID-19 there.

But the latest figures from China and South Korea suggest the virus might be slowing in northeast Asia.

China reported 40 new confirmed cases on Sunday, compared with 44 the day before. That is the lowest number since the National Health Commission started publishing national data on January 20.

Outside Hubei province, where the virus first originated late last year, China reported no new locally transmitted cases for the second straight day.

New infections in South Korea also appear to be slowing.

Here are the latest updates:

Monday, March 9
08:51 GMT – Qatar bans travellers from 14 countries
Travellers from 14 countries are banned from entering Qatar, the country’s Ministry of Health announced.

The ban covers Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria and Thailand. Flights to and from Italy were already suspended.

The restriction comes as the country registered three more cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of people testing positive up to 15.

Read more here.

08:34 GMT – China develops system to recognise faces behind mask
A Chinese company says it has developed the country’s first facial recognition technology that can identify people when they are wearing a mask, as most are these days because of the coronavirus, and help in the fight against the disease.

China employs some of the world’s most sophisticated systems of electronic surveillance, including facial recognition. But the coronavirus has resulted in almost everyone wearing a surgical mask outdoors in the hope of warding off the virus – posing a particular problem for surveillance.

Now Hanwang Technology Ltd, which also goes by the English name Hanvon, said it has come up technology that can successfully recognise people even when they are wearing masks.

“If connected to a temperature sensor, it can measure body temperature while identifying the person’s name, and then the system would process the result, say, if it detects a temperature over 38 degrees,” Hanwang Vice President Huang Lei told Reuters in an interview.

08:05 GMT – K-pop industry threatened by coronavirus
Following Japan’s travel restrictions on South Koreans, more K-pop concerts scheduled in Japan are being cancelled, threatening to hurt the Korean entertainment industry in its most lucrative market.

South Korean boy-band Super Junior called off its tours scheduled to take place on March 25 and 26 in Japan, citing the Japanese government’s measures to “curb immigration”.

South Korea’s entertainment firm CJ ENM followed suit, postponing its annual K-pop festival KCON in Japan. The event last year drew more than 88,000 fans, according to CJ ENM.

Japan said starting on Monday, people arriving from South Korea will be quarantined for two weeks. Tokyo also suspended visa waivers and the validity of existing visas for South Koreans, followed by a similar move by Seoul, rekindling a diplomatic feud between the neighbours.

07:45 GMT – Italy, France urge Europe for economic stimulus plan
Europe needs to come up with a “massive” economic stimulus plan to cope with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.

Le Maire told France Inter radio that the amount needed for the stimulus plan will be discussed at a March 16 meeting with his European counterparts. Le Maire also said the coronavirus could cut French economic growth below 1 percent in 2020 from a previous estimate of 1.3 percent.

The Italian government as well urged the European Union to adopt a package of measures to counter the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economies of the bloc.

07:30 GMT – Saudi state oil giant’s shares fall 10 percent, halting trading
The state oil giant Saudi Aramco saw its shares drop by 10 percent as Riyadh’s stock market opened on Monday, halting trading.


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