World

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

The director of the World Health Organization is urging countries to try to break the chain of transmission of the novel coronavirus, which has now infected more than 83,000 people.

WHO director says risk of spread and impact 'very high at a global level'

In raising the risk level from 'high' to 'very high,' the WHO says it's signalling that countries must be prepared for initial cases of coronavirus.  0:55

The latest: 

  • WHO urges increased preparation for COVID-19, says risk level 'very high' at global level.
  • Stock markets down amid growing fear over global spread of coronavirus.
  • Ontario reports a 7th case, says man who travelled to Iran in self-isolation at home.
  • Nigeria reports a case of COVID-19, the 1st reported case in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Read more about how Canada is preparing.

The world prepared for a coronavirus pandemic as hopes the disease could be contained to China vanished and investors dumped equities in expectation of a global recession.

Mainland China had 427 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Friday, the country's National Health Commission said, up from 327 cases a day earlier. Almost 80,000 cases have been confirmed in mainland China, with 2,835 of them fatal.

South Korea reported 594 new coronavirus cases, raising the country's total infections to 2,931, the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said on Saturday.

Outside China, there have been 4,351 cases in 49 countries and 67 deaths, WHO said Friday.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Geneva-based health agency has "increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high at a global level."

The increase of cases in other countries is "clearly of concern," Tedros said.

According to WHO:

  • 24 cases have been exported from Italy to 14 countries.
  • 97 cases have been exported from Iran to 11 countries.

The risk assessment is done by a specialist epidemiology team and doesn't make a legal difference, WHO emergencies program director Dr. Mike Ryan said. The hope, he said, is that raising the risk from "high" to "very high" makes people aware of the reality of the current situation — in which more countries are seeing cases and some are struggling to contain it.

"People need to take a reality check now and really understand an all-of-government, an all-of-society approach is needed," Ryan said.

Tedros, who again noted that the outbreak "can go in whichever direction," called for aggressive containment measures and preparation for further spread, not one or the other.

A woman in protective gear rides a shared bicycle past a mural in Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Hubei province, China on Friday. (Reuters)

"We should not really abandon the comprehensive or the blended approach — and we should do aggressive containment in each country." 

Tedros reiterated his call for governments and health care systems to work to break the chain of transmission of COVID-19, including stepping up surveillance, tracing contacts of suspected cases, isolating people with COVID-19 and educating the general public.

"Together we are powerful," he said. "Containment starts with you."

The deepening health crisis became an economic one too Friday as worries over the coronavirus outbreak sapped financial markets, emptied shops and businesses and put major sites and events off-limits.

The virus does not yet have a cure or a vaccine, and health experts have previously said development of a vaccine would likely take at least a year. Tedros said there are more than 20 vaccines in development and "several therapeutics are in clinical trials."  Initial results are expected in a few weeks, the WHO director said.

The list of countries hit by the illness edged toward 60 as Mexico, Belarus, Lithuania, New Zealand, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Iceland and the Netherlands reported their first cases. 

Here's a look at what's happening in some of the countries dealing with COVID-19.

Here's what's happening in Canada

From stocking up on supplies to changing travel plans, The National looks at how Canadians can prepare for a coronavirus outbreak and what may be unnecessary. 1:52

Ontario announced a seventh coronavirus case on Friday, saying a man in his 50s reported to hospital in Toronto earlier this week after travelling to Iran. He's now in self-isolation at home, provincial health officials said.

Quebec's first presumptive case of the coronavirus was detected in a woman who recently returned from a trip to Iran, the provincial health minister said Thursday evening. 

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

The other seven cases in the country are in British Columbia.

Canada's 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.

1st cases for Nigeria, New Zealand and Mexico

The country has already established a system to deal with outbreaks such as measles, cholera and lassa fever.  1:44

An Italian man who has been confirmed as Nigeria's first coronavirus case after arriving from Milan was in the country for almost two full days, travelling through Lagos and visiting another state before being isolated.

The Ogun state governor, in a separate media briefing, said 28 people had been placed in quarantine by the company where the man worked.

The case, the first in sub-Saharan Africa, has prompted a scramble by Nigerian authorities to try to "meet and observe" all passengers who arrived on the same flight as the man and to identify the places he visited before being hospitalized.

Lagos, with 20 million people, is the biggest city in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country.

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

Mexican authorities on Friday confirmed the first case of coronavirus in that country, in what is only the second case in Latin America. The first was reported in Brazil.

New Zealand also confirmed its first case, found in a person in their 60s who recently returned from Iran.

Here's what's happening in South Korea

South Korea and Japan are taking measures to curtail fear while trying to contain a rise of coronavirus cases. 2:00

South Korea said the southeastern city of Daegu and surrounding areas accounted for most of its new infections. Officials have been mobilizing public health tools to contain the outbreak to the Daegu area, but the gradual increase of cases elsewhere has raised concern that authorities are losing control of the virus.

Thirteen people have died so far in the country.

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.

Here's what's happening in Japan

Tokyo Disneyland will be closed starting Saturday through to March 15, its operator, Oriental Land Co., said on Friday. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

Kyodo, a local news outlet in Japan, reported Friday that a British traveller who was a passenger aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship died from the coronavirus. More than 700 people on the ship, including more than 50 Canadians, contracted the virus while on the ship, which was under quarantine at a Japanese port for two weeks.

The Japanese island of Hokkaido declared a state of emergency on Friday over the rapid spread of the new virus. The governor said the emergency will continue until mid-March and urged all residents to stay home this weekend, which he said is a critical time to keep the situation from worsening.

The number of cases in Hokkaido has risen rapidly in recent days to 63.

Hear from a Canadian with coronavirus under quarantine in Japan

Sporting events and concerts in Japan have already been cancelled, and Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea said they, too, would close until mid-March. The closure of Disney resorts in Japan will last through March 15, their Japanese operator, Oriental Land Co., said Friday. Disney parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai remain closed.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had called for all schools to close until late March, though the decisions to do so were being made locally.

Here's what's happening in Iran and the Middle East

All schools in Iran will close for three days starting Saturday over coronavirus concerns, Iran's health minister announced on state TV.

"Based on assessments it was felt that there was a need for closing all the schools in the country and for this reason all the schools in the country will be closed for three days starting from tomorrow," Health Minister Saeed Namaki said.

Kianoush Jahanpour, a spokesperson for Iran's Health Ministry, said on Friday the new coronavirus has killed 34 people amid 388 confirmed cases in Iran.

As case numbers increased in Iran this week and more countries reported cases with links to travel to Iran, questions emerged over whether the case count coming out of the country was accurate.

The new total pushes the confirmed cases of the virus in the Mideast above 500.

A major cycling race in the United Arab Emirates was cancelled Friday after two Italians tested positive for the new coronavirus, setting off a quarantine that also ensnared four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome of Britain.

Just a day earlier, Saudi Arabia took the unprecedented step of closing off Islam's holiest sites to foreign pilgrims to stop the virus's spread

Here's what's happening in Europe

A man wearing a protective mask is seen in the subway on Thursday in Milan. (Marco Di Laura/Getty Images)

In Europe, France's reported cases doubled, Germany warned of an impending epidemic and Greece, a gateway for refugees from the Middle East, announced tighter border controls.

Switzerland joined countries banning big events, while the case numbers in Italy stood at 888, the most of any country outside of Asia.

Italy's northern Lombardy region said on Friday it would ask the government to keep preventative measures adopted against the coronavirus outbreak in operation for at least another week.

He added that a total of 531 people had tested positive in Lombardy since last Friday.

Some saw dollar signs in the crisis. Twenty people were arrested in Italy for selling masks they fraudulently claimed provided complete protection from the coronavirus. Police said they were selling them for as much as 5,000 euros — more than $7,000 Cdn.

The United Kingdom now has 19 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus after Wales identified its first case and two new cases were found in England, health authorities said on Friday.

With files from Reuters and CBC News

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