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COVID-19 outbreak: Here's what's happening around the world Thursday

Countries with their first confirmed cases of coronavirus should "move swiftly" to contain the virus, WHO's director-general said Thursday, noting that the concern over cases outside of China is growing as the number of people infected mounts.

WHO director-general urges countries to prepare, says virus 'does not respect borders'

'This is your window of opportunity,' WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells nations as virus spreads more widely. 2:34

The latest: 

  • Dow plummets 1,200 points over worries virus will wreak havoc on global economy.
  • WHO director-general says virus 'does not respect borders' and has 'pandemic potential.'
  • Japanese PM calls for schools to close.
  • Iranian case numbers up, Saudi Arabia bans foreign pilgrims from holy sites.
  • Ontario reports 6th case after spouse of 5th case tests positive.

Countries with their first confirmed cases of coronavirus should "move swiftly" to contain the virus, WHO's director-general said Thursday, noting that the concern over cases outside of China is growing as the number of people infected mounts.

Within the past 24 hours, seven countries — Brazil, Georgia, Greece, Macedonia, Norway, Pakistan and Romania — have reported cases for the first time, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a daily briefing. 

For the past two days, Tedros said, the number of new cases reported in the rest of the world has exceeded the number of new cases reported in China.

"This virus does not respect borders," he said. "The point is not only to prevent cases arriving on your shores — the point is what you do when you have cases."

The outbreak — which the WHO has declared a global health emergency — has "pandemic potential," Tedros said, noting that the WHO is working with countries around the world to prepare.

He reiterated his message that fear is not the answer, and called for calm as countries prepare.

Tedros noted that several countries — including Belgium, Cambodia, India, Nepal, the Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam — have gone two weeks without reporting a new case. He said this signalled that "aggressive, early measures can prevent transmission before coronavirus gets a foothold."

As of 6 a.m. Geneva time, China had reported 78,630 cases to WHO, with 2,747 deaths, Tedros said. Outside of China, there were 3,474 cases in 44 countries, with 54 deaths.

Earlier, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country, which has 23 cases of the virus, was operating on the basis of a pandemic and hospitals were under orders to ensure enough medical supplies, personal protective equipment and staff.

"There is every indication that the world will soon enter a pandemic phase of the coronavirus," Morrison told a news conference in Canberra.

Meanwhile, The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank nearly 1,200 points Thursday, deepening a weeklong global market rout caused by worries the coronavirus outbreak will wreak havoc on the global economy.

WATCH: Infectious disease doctor explains what's happening with COVID-19

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch looks at the implications of COVID-19's global reach and asymptomatic transmission of the disease. 2:18

Quebec reports 1st presumptive case

Quebec's first presumptive case of the coronavirus has been detected in a woman who recently returned from a trip to Iran, according to the provincial health minister. 

The woman took a plane from Iran to Qatar before arriving at the Montreal airport on Monday, Health Minister Danielle McCann said Thursday evening at an impromptu news conference.

Earlier, Ontario reported a sixth case of COVID-19 on Thursday. The other seven cases in the country are in British Columbia.

The sixth case, a man in his 60s, is married to the fifth person in Ontario to test positive for COVID-19.

"We are working alongside Toronto Public Health, who is now and will continue to be in regular contact with this individual during their self-isolation period," Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, said in a statement.

Canada's top public health official, Dr. Theresa Tam, said Canada has begun to look at tracking local spread of the virus.

Tam said Thursday that Canada has methods to monitor for possible spread of the virus within the country — systems typically used to monitor influenza — and if public health agencies discover the spread of COVID-19, they will work quickly to try to contain it.

"I think that's actually something that all countries should be moving toward as well," she said.

In the meantime, the public health agency is taking stock of the need for personal protective equipment and other supplies to make sure there are enough to go around in case of a pandemic.

WATCH: How Canada is preparing for a coronavirus outbreak

Canadian public health officials detailed plans for preparations for a coronavirus outbreak here. 1:52

The virus, which does not yet have a cure or a vaccine, keeps spreading to new places around the world.  Read on for a look at what's happening in some of the countries dealing with the most cases of the novel coronavirus.

Here's what's happening in the U.S.

U.S. officials said Thursday they were ramping up efforts to guard against a local spread of the virus, dispatching test kits nationwide and promising funding legislation within the next two weeks.

California officials said 33 people had tested positive for the virus, and 8,400 people were being monitored for symptoms. The state currently has only about 200 test kits but has been in "constant contact with federal agencies" that have promised to send a fresh supply in coming days, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

It's expected Capitol Hill negotiations on emergency spending to combat the outbreak are likely to produce a bill that's double or even triple the $2.5 billion US plan requested by President Donald Trump.

Trump's administration is also considering invoking special powers through the Defence Production Act to rapidly expand domestic production of protective masks and clothing to combat the virus, two U.S. officials told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Facebook Inc. said it would cancel its annual developer conference due to fears over the coronavirus outbreak and Microsoft Corp. followed suit by withdrawing from a gaming conference scheduled for next month.

Here's what's happening in China

China reported 327 new cases, bringing the total case number on the mainland to 78,824, the country's National Health Commission said Friday. That was less than the 433 cases the day before and the lowest number since Jan. 23.

More than 32,000 of those patients have recovered and were discharged from hospital.

Of the new cases in China reported by the health commission, 318 were in the epicentre of the city of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December.

The death toll in mainland China reached 2,788 as of the end of Thursday, up by 44 from the previous day. All but three of those were in Hubei province.

In addition to providing gloves, tape and disinfectant, ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing is installing between 100 and 200 plastic shields per day in Beijing cars. 0:30

Here's what's happening in South Korea

South Korea reported 256 additional cases Friday, raising its total to 2,022, with most occurring in the region around the city of Daegu. Many cases there have connections to a church and health workers are testing thousands of its members.

Thirteen people have died.

A Hyundai worker tested positive for the virus on Friday, leading to a suspension of production at one the automaker's factories in the southeastern city of Ulsan

The country's National Assembly has passed a law strengthening the punishment for those violating self-isolation, more than tripling the fine and adding the possibility of a year in prison.

The military also called off joint drills planned with U.S. troops.

WATCH: South Korea launches roadside tests

Amid soaring demand for virus testing, Goyang, South Korea, is reducing wait times with a roadside test. 0:25

The outbreak has prompted South Korean boy band BTS to cancel its scheduled April concerts in Seoul, according to its music label, Big Hit Entertainment.

BTS had scheduled a "Map of the Soul" tour for April 11-12 and 18-19 at Seoul's Olympic Stadium.

Here's what's happening in Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for schools across the country to close for weeks, a decision that impacted 12.8 million students.

"The most important thing is to prevent infections," said Norinobu Sawada, vice-principal of Koizumi primary school, "so there aren't many other options."

Tokyo Disneyland will be closed starting from Saturday through to March 15, operator Oriental Land Company said on Friday. Both Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea will be closed starting Saturday, the company said.

Craig Lee, one of more than 50 Canadians who tested positive for COVID-19 while on the cruise ship Diamond Princess, is still under quarantine at a Japanese health facility. He told CBC News Network he has no symptoms and feels well.

There was also a report that a woman in Osaka tested positive for COVID-19 for a second time. It's the first known recurrence in Japan, though Reuters reports that similar cases have occurred in China.

WATCH: Canadian Craig Lee talks to CBC News about his time in isolation in Japan

'These people are so supportive,' says Craig Lee, who is waiting to go home as soon as he clears the latest round of tests.   2:11

Here's what's happening in Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East

Saudi Arabia on Thursday banned foreign pilgrims from entering the kingdom to visit Islam's holiest sites over the new coronavirus, potentially disrupting the plans of millions of faithful ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and as the annual hajj pilgrimage looms.

The decision showed the growing worry across the Mideast about the virus as Iran confirmed that infected cases in the country spiked by over 100, to 254 now. A total of 26 people have died so far, it said. That pushes the region's overall cases to above 350. Iran's death toll is highest outside of China, where the outbreak began.

Saudi Arabia's barring of pilgrims from Mecca, home to the cube-shaped Kaaba that the world's 1.8 billion Muslims pray toward five times a day, and also the holy city of Medina, appeared unprecedented in modern history. The kingdom's Al Saud ruling family stakes their legitimacy in overseeing and protecting the sites. Authorities also suspended entry to travellers from nations affected by the new virus who hold tourist visas for the kingdom.

It appeared Saudi officials worried about the risk of pilgrims spreading the virus as they had in Iran. The virus' epicentre in the Islamic Republic is the holy Shia city of Qom, where the faithful in reverence reach out to kiss and touch a famous shrine. That shrine and others have remained open, despite Iran's civilian government calling for them to be closed.

WATCH: WHO officials explain high mortality rate in Iran

'You only see the severe end of the spectrum' when epidemics start, says Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's Health Emergency Program. 0:52

There have been no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Saudi Arabia amid the outbreak.

A Kuwaiti health ministry official said Thursday that the country has 43 confirmed cases as of Thursday, adding that all the cases involved people who had been to Iran.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Health Ministry on Thursday announced the first coronavirus case in the capital, Baghdad, bringing the overall number of cases reported in the country to six. All have been linked to Iran.

Here's what's happening in Italy and Europe

In Italy, the Civil Protection Agency said on Thursday three more people have died, bringing the country's death toll linked to the coronavirus up to 17, with 650 cases confirmed.

France and Germany both saw a spike in cases, and a rash of countries have reported their first cases in the past couple of days, including Denmark and Estonia, while Lithuania confirmed its first case on Friday. 

The European Parliament is considering whether to hold its meetings and plenary sessions by teleconference instead of in person due to growing concerns about the fast-spreading coronavirus that originated in China, a spokesman said.

A staffer of the Bulgarian soccer team Ludogorets disinfects his hands before heading to the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, on Thursday. Ludogorets is playing the Italian club Inter Milan in a Thursday match scheduled to go ahead in an empty stadium due to the coronavirus outbreak. (Luca Bruno/The Associated Press)

 

With files from Reuters, The Canadian Press and CBC News

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