World ‘on brink of coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus is spreading more quickly in Europe, the Middle East and other parts of the world than in China where the virus first emerged in the central city of Wuhan at the end of last year.

The number of new infections inside China was for the first time overtaken by fresh cases elsewhere on Wednesday, with Italy, Iran and South Korea emerging as new hotspots for COVID-19.

The disease was also detected for the first time in Estonia, Denmark, Georgia, Brazil, Pakistan, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Romania and Algeria.

Here are the latest updates:

Thursday, February 27
Infected South Korean flight attendant worked Los Angeles route
A Korean Air flight attendant who worked on flights between Seoul and Los Angeles subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus, South Korea’s disease control agency and sources said.

The flight attendant worked on Korean Air’s flight KE017 from Seoul’s Incheon airport to Los Angeles on February 19, and on the return flight KE012 on February 20, Yonhap news agency and other media reported. A South Korean official familiar with the case verified those flight details.

“She took a flight after showing symptoms, and we are investigating people who had contact with the employee on the flight,” the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said in a statement.

Osaka city to close kindergartens, elementary, junior high schools
Japan’s Osaka city has decided to close all public kindergartens, elementary and junior high schools from February 29 to March 13 in a bid to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, Kyodo reported.

An Osaka city official said the municipal government was holding a meeting to discuss measures concerning the virus but that he was not aware of the reported decision.

Iran infection cases reach 141, deaths 22
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency’s latest figures show 141 confirmed cases and 22 deaths.

Estonia confirms first coronavirus case
Estonia has confirmed its first coronavirus case in a man who returned from Iran, Russian news agencies TASS and Interfax reported on Thursday, citing Estonian health authorities.

“We are talking about a permanent resident of Estonia who is not a citizen of Estonia,” Interfax reported, citing Estonian Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik.

“According to my information, he is a citizen of Iran,” Interfax cited Kiik as telling Estonian TV.

Saudi Arabia halts travel to Mecca, Medina
Saudi Arabia halted travel to the holiest sites in Islam over coronavirus fears just months ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, as the Middle East recorded more than 220 confirmed cases.

Read more here.

Denmark confirms first coronavirus case
Denmark has confirmed its first coronavirus infection in a man who returned from a ski holiday in northern Italy, the Danish health authority said. The man was put in isolation in his own home.

Iraq announces sixth case of coronavirus
Iraq’s health ministry said a young Iraqi man in Baghdad tested positive after returning from Iran.

Virus strikes another blow at religious tourism in Iraq
Iraq’s vital religious tourism sector was already suffering after months of protests, political turmoil and sanctions hitting pilgrims from neighbouring Iran – then the novel coronavirus arrived.

In the southern Shia holy city of Karbala, hotels have closed and face masks are more common on the street than the full-length black veils worn by female pilgrims.

Visitors are scarce at the golden-domed tomb of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, despite twice-daily visits by health officials to sanitise the site.

North Korea extends school breaks over virus fears
North Korea has postponed the new school term to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, reports said, the latest measure as the ill-equipped country ramps up efforts to prevent a devastating outbreak.

Pyongyang has not reported a single case of the COVID-19.

“School breaks for students have been extended as a preventive measure against the infection,” the Korean Central Broadcasting Station reported, according to Yonhap news agency.

China asks low-risk areas to resume visa, passport services
Regions in China at low risk of the coronavirus should resume visa and passport services for both Chinese and foreign travellers to help the nation get back to work, immigration authorities said.

Medium-risk areas should do the same, depending on the state of the epidemic within their borders, the China Immigration Administration also said.

The immigration authority said on its official Weibo account that it would roll out measures to facilitate such moves, without providing further details.

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