South Africa confirms first case of coronavirus

The US Congress has voted for a $8.3bn emergency funding package to fight the coronavirus.

The move comes as the country reported a total of 11 deaths, including one in California, the first outside Washington state. More cases have also emerged in New York and Los Angeles with California declaring a state of emergency.

Meanwhile Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and South Africa have marked their first cases of coronavirus while the biblical Church of Nativity in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank closes due to coronavirus fears.

Globally, more than 95,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the vast majority in China where the virus originated late last year.

Thursday, March 5

14:45 GMT – SA Health Minister warns virus will test health system

South Africa’s health minister has warned that the country’s health system would be tested by the coronavirus, after it earlier confirmed its first case.

Addressing lawmakers in Cape Town, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that South Africa was working with the WHO and other institutions to help diagnose the virus, called COVID-19, across Africa.

“I think we need to be upfront about it … Our system will be tested by the impact of coronavirus,” he said, according to Reuters news agency.

14:30 GMT – Cases in Greece triple with links pilgrim

Greece has said that 21 people linked to man who had tested positive for coronavirus after they all visited Israel and Egypt had themselves become infected.

The new cases brought the total in Greece to 31, and health ministry official Sotiris Tsiodras said a significant rise was expected in the coming weeks.

The 66-year-old man had recently returned from a religious pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt as part of a group. His wife also tested positive.

14:15 GMT – UN concerned over Cyprus crossing closure

The United Nations has voiced concern over the disruption caused by the Republic of Cyprus government’s temporary closure of several crossings on the divided island’s ceasefire line over the coronavirus crisis.

“Following the decision to temporarily close four crossing points along the buffer zone, UNFICYP is concerned by the ongoing disruption caused to people on both sides,” the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus said in a statement.  “While the UN supports all effective measures to address any potential public health emergency, it is imperative for the two sides to coordinate closely in order to provide a comprehensive response.”

The island is divided between the Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member state, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognised only by Ankara.

14:00 GMT – Rugby: Italy versus England Six Nation games postponed

England’s final Six Nations matches against Italy in Rome next week has been postponed amid fears over the coronavirus outbreak, tournament organisers have said.

“Six Nations notes the decree issued by the Italian Government with respect to all upcoming sporting events in that country,” organisers said in a statement. “The decision has now been taken to postpone the three matches between Italy and England (Men’s, Women’s, and U20) set to take place over the weekend of 13th/14th/15th March, with the intention to reschedule them at later dates.”

13:45 GMT – #CoronaVirusSA trends worldwide after first case confirmed

The hashtag #CoronaVirusSA began trending worldwide after the first case was confirmed in South Africa.

Authorities said the infected 38-year-old man had recently traveled to Italy with his wife. A “tracer team” has been identifying anyone who had contact with the man and his personal doctor has self isolated, South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases tweeted.

13:30 GMT – South Africa third sub-Saharan country to confirm coronavirus case

South Africa’s announcement that a case of coronavirus has been confirmed in the country makes it the third sub-Saharan country to report the infection.

Senegal has reported one case, while Nigeria has reported four, to date. Sub-Saharan Africa is considered high risk for an outbreak because of its close ties to China and weak health care infrastructure in many countries.

13:15 GMT – South Africa Health Minister: Citizens in China to be brought home

South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has said citizens currently quarantined in China will be returning home in the next few days.

Mkhize made the announcement shortly after the country confirmed its first case of the virus, a man who had recently travelled to Italy with his wife.

12:30 GMT – Netherlands braces for return of 900 students from Italian alps

Dutch health authorities said they were scrambling to put together a plan for the return of a group of about 900 students from a skiing trip in the north of Italy.

The trip by the youngsters, mostly in their early 20s, to the heart of Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak has stoked fears of a wider spread of the virus in the Netherlands, where the number of confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday stood at 38.

“We are working very hard to prepare for all different scenarios,” local health authorities spokeswoman Hanneke Mensink told Reuters news agency.

These scenarios might include plans to monitor or test all students involved after their return.

12:20 GMT – Egypt reports first case in an Egyptian national

Egypt recorded the first coronavirus case in an Egyptian national who had returned from Serbia via France, a joint statement from the health ministry and the World Health Organization said.

The North African country registered two cases before in foreigners, one of whom recovered and was released from quarantine.

12:06 GMT – Formal proposal to postpone matches shared: FIFA

FIFA shared a formal proposal to postpone upcoming matches in the Asian FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers with relevant member associations.

“For both FIFA and the AFC, the well-being and health of all individuals involved in football matches remains the highest priority,” FIFA’s statement read, adding that it will provide an update in the coming days following consultation with AFC member associations.

“Other topics of discussion were the women’s Olympic play-off between Korea Republic and China PR, as well as the AFC Futsal Championship Turkmenistan 2020,” it said.

12:00 GMT – South Africa confirms first case of coronavirus

South Africa’s health ministry confirmed its first case of coronavirus in the country.

The patient is a 38-year-old male who travelled to Italy with his wife, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement.

The couple returned to South Africa on March 1 and the patient consulted a private practitioner two days later with symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, a sore throat and a cough.

The patient has been in isolation since then as well as the doctor.

11:33 GMT – New Delhi primary schools closed

All government-run primary schools in the Indian capital will remain closed until March 31 as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, the local education minister said.

11:17 GMT – US, Israel cancel military exercise

The US and Israel have scrapped the remainder of their joint military exercise Juniper Cobra 20 over the coronavirus outbreak, the US European Command based in Germany said.

“The decision is in alignment with recent Israeli Ministry of Health guidelines on COVID-19, and a precautionary measure to ensure the health and safety of all participants,” USEUCOM said in a statement.

10:54 GMT – Palestinian Authority issues foreign tourist ban

The Palestinian Authority ordered hotels in the occupied West Bank to stop receiving foreign tourists after four suspected cases of the coronavirus were found in Bethlehem.

The two-week restriction, announced by the Palestinian Tourism Ministry, goes into effect on Friday.

10:44 GMT – Iran says deaths reach 107 amid 3,513 confirmed cases

Iran announced 15 deaths and 591 fresh cases in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 107 dead amid 3,513 infected cases across the country, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a televised news conference.

10:30 GMT – China’s Alibaba to offer $144m in subsidies as shopping suffers

China’s Alibaba Group will provide one billion yuan ($144m) in spending subsidies for a March online shopping festival to counter the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Alibaba’s announcement, made in a social media post, comes as the e-commerce giant wrestles with depressed consumer spending in China, which is in a state of semi-quarantine.

10:20 GMT – Iran closes schools, universities until March 20

According to Iran’s health minister, Iran will close schools and universities until the end of the Iranian calendar year on March 20 due to the coronavirus.

10:16 GMT – Bethlehem church to close

The Church of Nativity in the biblical city of Bethlehem, revered as the birthplace of Jesus will close after a suspected outbreak of the coronavirus, a church official said.

The Palestinian health ministry called for local churches, mosques and other institutions to close after a number of suspected cases at a hotel in the Holy Land city of Bethlehem.

10:15 GMT  – Slovenia confirms first case

Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec said the first case of COVID-19 has been detected in Slovenia.

Slovenia’s Health Minister Ales Sabeder said the person detected with the virus had traveled from Morocco to Italy and then to Slovenia.

09:55 GMT – COVID-19 accompanied by conspiracy theories

Coronavirus’ rapid spread has been accompanied by an outbreak of false claims and conspiracy theories on social and mainstream media, allowing misinformation on the origins of the virus and hoaxes on cures to travel as fast as the infection.

One study by the US State Department, reported on by the Washington Post, said roughly two million tweets touting conspiracy theories about the virus – such as claims it was caused by a bioweapon – had been posted outside the US over the three-week period when the disease began to spread outside China.

Read more here.

09:37 GMT – Airlines could lose up to $113bn in revenue: IATA

Airlines could lose $63bn to $113bn in revenue for passenger traffic globally in 2020, depending on how the coronavirus spreads, International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.

IATA on February 20 estimated the outbreak would cost carriers $29.3bn in revenue.

09:35 GMT – Kuwait confirms two more cases

Kuwait’s Ministry of Health confirmed two more coronavirus cases, during the past 24 hours.

The ministry said that the two cases came from Iran, bringing the country’s total number of confirmed cases to 58.

09:20 GMT – Germany reports 109 new cases in a day

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 109 within a day, a public health institute said.

As of Thursday morning, there were 349 cases across all but one federal state, up from 240 on Wednesday morning and compared with 262 on Wednesday afternoon, the Robert Koch Institute said.

The hardest-hit state is the western region of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous, with 175 cases.

09:15 GMT – More than 290 million students missing school: UN

More than 290 million students have been affected by school closures across 13 countries to curb the coronavirus outbreak, the UN said.

“While temporary school closures as a result of health and other crises are not new unfortunately, the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education,” Audrey Azoulay, director general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said in a statement.

09:06 GMT – Switzerland reports first death

A 74-year-old woman in western Switzerland has died after contracting the new coronavirus, the country’s first death, regional police said.

The woman had been hospitalised in the canton of Vaud since Tuesday, police said. She was a high-risk patient suffering from chronic disease, authorities said.

07:43 GMT – Bosnia and Herzegovina reports first two cases

Bosnia and Herzegovina has reported its first two cases of coronavirus, confirmed by the health ministry of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska entity.

Alen Seranic, the regional health minister said at a press conference that a middle-aged man, who returned to Bosnia a month ago from Italy where he works, has been infected with coronavirus as well as his child.

The man was confirmed earlier this week as having coronavirus. He’s currently in stable condition and is being kept in isolation in hospital in the city of Banja Luka.

Health authorities will test school children who have had contact with the infected child, as well as all other members of the infected family, he said. The school will be closed for the next couple of days.

07:36 GMT – Chinese President Xi’s visit delayed

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan has been postponed because as countries have agreed to prioritise the fight against the coronavirus outbreak, Japan’s top government spokesman said.

The Asian neighbours agreed that a new itinerary would be arranged at a better time, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

Suga said the delay in Xi’s visit, which had been originally planned for early April, would not affect Japan-China relations.

06:42 GMT – Greece reports tenth case, shuts schools in three areas

Greece reported its tenth case of coronavirus. The person had recently returned from a religious pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt, health authorities said.

Greece on Wednesday ordered schools to be closed and banned public gatherings in three districts in western Greece from Thursday as a precaution after a person from the region tested positive for coronavirus.

The ban was in effect for 48 hours and subject to review, authorities said.



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