- COVID-19 cases surpass 100,000 globally.
- 21 people, mostly crew members, test positive for coronavirus on Grand Princess cruise ship.
- Canada’s chief public health officer urges travellers to “think twice” before going on a cruise ship.
- WHO chief concerned by uptick in cases in low-income countries with weaker health systems.
- Italy says death toll up to 197, with 4,636 cases. Iran also reports uptick, with 124 deaths and 4,747 confirmed cases.
- Total number of cases in Canada rises to 54.
- Read more about how Canada will cope with community transmission of COVID-19.
The number of people infected with the novel coronavirus surpassed 100,000 on Friday, with the global scare upending routines, threatening livelihoods and prompting quarantines.
Asian shares were down following a rough day on Wall Street and the consequences of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, were becoming clear to people around the world. Halted travel and a broader economic downturn linked to the outbreak threatened to hit already-struggling communities for months to come.
“Who is going to feed their families?” asked Elias al-Arja, the head of a hotel owners’ union in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where tourists have been banned and the storied Church of the Nativity shuttered.
The head of the UN’s food agency, the World Food Program, warned of the potential of “absolute devastation” as the outbreak’s effects ripple through Africa and the Middle East.
There’s no cure or vaccine for the virus, which was first reported in Hubei province in China but has now been identified in dozens of countries around the world.
China reported 143 new cases Friday, the same as a day earlier and about one-third what the country was seeing a week ago. Just a month ago, China was reporting several thousand new cases a day, outnumbering infections elsewhere in the world about 120 to 1. The problem has now flipped, with the outbreak moving to Europe — where Italy, Germany and France had the most cases — and beyond.
In a news teleconference on Friday afternoon, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, confirmed there are now more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases in more than 90 countries. That number is consistent with a project by John Hopkins University, which attempts to track cases in near real time.
The latest numbers released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday were slightly lower — but Tam said that is just a reflection of the time of day the information was released.
Earlier Friday, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the organization is especially concerned about an uptick in the number of lower-income countries with weaker health systems reporting an increase of cases.
“Every day we slow down the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> epidemic is another day:<br>-governments can prepare their <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/healthworkers?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#healthworkers</a> to detect, test, treat & care for patients. <br>-closer to having vaccines & therapeutics, which can in turn prevent infections & save lives”-<a href=”https://twitter.com/DrTedros?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@DrTedros</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/coronavirus?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#coronavirus</a>
Tedros said earlier this week that shortages of protective equipment like masks and gloves “are leaving doctors, nurses and other front-line health workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients.”
Health officials around the world have urged people not to hoard supplies, and noted that masks are most effective for people who are sick, not those who are trying to avoid contracting the disease.
Here’s what’s happening in Canada
The number of cases in Canada, including the presumed cases, rose to 54 on Friday.
That’s out of more than 4,500 people who have been tested for coronavirus in Canada — and the risk within the country continues to be low, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
In Friday’s call, Tam said public health efforts continue to focus on containment. Given the global spread, she urged Canadians who have travelled and are experiencing “even mild symptoms” within 14 days of their return to stay home.
Tam also appealed to Canadians to “think twice” before going on a cruise ship, noting that they are environments conducive to the spread of the virus.
Seniors and people with underlying health conditions are at particular risk, she said.
In addition to the health concerns, Tam said, Canadians could also find themselves quarantined by other governments if a coronavirus case happens on board — something that happened on both the Grand Princess and the Diamond Princess.
As the busy March Break travel season approaches, Tam also urged all travellers to check the Government of Canada’s travel health notices, as the coronavirus situation evolves around the world.
Although the majority of cases in Canada have been linked to foreign travel, health officials in British Columbia are investigating after a woman who had no travel history to areas dealing with a coronavirus outbreak tested positive for the illness.
The woman in her 50s, who also had no apparent contact with COVID-19 patients before becoming infected, visited her doctor with flu-like symptoms, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday.
Henry told reporters Thursday that the woman with no travel history to an affected area is one of eight new cases in the province.
Quebec, which had two confirmed cases as of Thursday, reported a third presumptive case on Friday in a person who had travelled to France.
The number of cases of the coronavirus in Ontario reached 28 on Friday.
Alberta announced its second presumptive case on Friday.
Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Friday that Canada expects COVID-19 to impact commodity prices — like oil and metals — as well as travel and tourism. Morneau said while the full impact on the Canadian economy can’t be determined at this stage in the outbreak, there are already signs of issues in the global supply chain and changes in consumer sentiment.
“The impact on Canada will ultimately depend on the depth and length of the virus,” he said. “These things cannot be known until they are known, so our government is planning for every contingency.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his decision not to close Canada’s borders to foreign nationals coming from countries where the outbreak is spreading. Several countries have banned travellers from those countries, but Trudeau said Thursday Canada is taking its lead from WHO, which has advised against the application of travel or trade restrictions to countries dealing with COVID-19 cases.
Here’s what’s happening in the U.S.
In the United States, more than 230 cases were stirring anxiety around the country, especially in Washington state, where the first cases were identified. Of the 14 deaths in the U.S., 13 have been in Washington state.
On Friday evening, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence announced that 21 passengers, including 19 crew members, aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, which has been anchored off the coast of California, have tested positive for coronavirus.
The vessel, with 3,500 aboard — including 237 Canadians — had been ordered to stay at sea after a traveller from its previous voyage died of the coronavirus and at least four others were infected.
California National Guard paratroopers were hoisted down from a military helicopter on Thursday to deliver coronavirus test kits to the ship.
WATCH | Test kits for COVID-19 dropped to cruise ship:
Only some of the passengers were tested on board. Pence said the U.S. government is planning to bring the Grand Princess cruise ship into a “non-commercial port” where all the passengers and crew will be tested.
Those who need to be quarantined will be quarantined and those who need treatment will get treatment, he said.
It is not yet known whether any Canadian passengers are among those who have tested positive for the virus.
The Grand Princess is operated by the same line as the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined at a Japanese port last month. More than 700 people on board were infected.
U.S. President Donald Trump has signed a more than $8-billion spending bill meant to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak. The legislation will provide federal public health agencies money for vaccines, tests and potential treatments, and help state and local governments prepare for and respond to the threat.
On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak had been hindered by what he called imperfect data from China, adding that it had been frustrating getting information from the ruling Communist Party.
“The information that we got at the front end of this thing wasn’t perfect and has led us now to a place where much of the challenge we face today has put us behind the curve,” Pompeo told CNBC in an interview. Both China and Iran have faced questions about both transparency and the manner in which cases were counted and reported.
Here’s what’s happening in South Korea and Japan
The second hardest-hit country, South Korea, was also registering a notable decline in new infections and the World Health Organization’s leader said he was seeing “encouraging signs” there.
South Korea reported 505 additional cases Friday, down from a high of 851 on Tuesday. The country has touted its “remarkable diagnostic and treatment abilities” but its vice health minister, Kim Gang-lip, said: “It’s not easy to make predictions about how the situation … would play out.”
Japan was also dealing with some diplomatic tensions over its decisions around the outbreak, as Seoul expressed “extreme regret” that Japan will quarantine all visitors from South Korea due to its surging viral outbreak.
Japan’s 14-day quarantines also will apply to visitors from China.
Here’s what’s happening in Italy and Europe
The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has risen by 49 to 197, the Civil Protection Agency said Friday — the largest daily increase in fatalities since the contagion was uncovered two weeks ago. The cumulative number of cases in the country, which has been hardest hit by the virus in Europe, totalled 4,636 against 3,858 on Thursday.
The head of the agency said that, of those originally infected, 523 had fully recovered.
Even Vatican City was hit by the virus, with the tiny city-state confirming its first case Friday but not saying who was infected. The Vatican has insisted Pope Francis, who has been sick, only has a cold.
In Britain, a patient with an underlying health condition in southeast England died Thursday after testing positive for the new coronavirus, becoming the first person in the United Kingdom to succumb to the disease. The BBC reported Friday that 163 people there have tested positive for COVID-19.
The Dutch public health institute has reported the Netherlands’ first coronavirus death, while Serbia and Slovakia confirmed their first cases of the virus. An 86-year-old man died in a hospital in Rotterdam. It is not known where he contracted the virus. The Netherlands currently has 82 known infections.
Spain, meanwhile, has confirmed its fourth death, an elderly woman in Madrid. Health authorities have identified 16 cases in the centre for elderly she attended and four other cases in the town. There are 261 confirmed cases in Spain.
Here’s what’s happening in Iran and the Middle East
Iran said Friday the coronavirus has killed 124 people amid 4,747 confirmed cases in the Islamic Republic as authorities warned they may use “force” to limit travel between cities. Health Ministry spokesperson Kianoush Jahanpour offered the figures at a televised news conference. He did not elaborate on the threat to use force, though he acknowledged the virus now was in all of Iran’s 31 provinces.
The threat may be to stop people from using the closed schools and universities as an excuse to go to the Caspian Sea and other Iranian vacation spots. Iran on Thursday announced it would put checkpoints in place to limit travel between major cities, hoping to stem the spread of the virus.
Iran cancelled Friday prayers across its major cities. Elsewhere in the region, Iraq cancelled Friday prayers in Karbala, where a weekly sermon is delivered on behalf of the country’s top Shia cleric. Authorities in the United Arab Emirates meanwhile limited prayers to two verses of the Quran so they lasted no longer than 10 minutes, over concerns about the virus.
When asked about the situation in Iran, which has seen a rapid uptick in cases, WHO’s emergency programs director Dr. Mike Ryan said that WHO commends “a move toward more aggressive, targeted surveillance.” He noted that countries dealing with an epidemic often see an uptick of cases once they make aggressive moves to find them.
Ryan said he hopes the moves in Iran will lead to control measures to help push COVID-19 back in that country.
More than 4,990 cases of the virus, which causes the illness COVID-19, have been confirmed across the Middle East. Iran and Italy have the world’s highest death tolls outside of China.
Here’s a look at some other COVID-19 developments around the world
Health officials with WHO has been warning for weeks of the risks in countries where health-care systems don’t have the resources or capacity to deal with an outbreak.
Here are some of the latest developments in regions that have not yet seen large numbers of cases but remain an area of concern, including Africa and South America:
12 new cases of coronavirus registered on a Nile cruise ship are all asymptomatic, the health ministry and WHO said in a joint statement on Friday. The individuals are all Egyptian workers on the ship, which is heading to the southern city of Luxor, the statement said.
Cameroon’s health ministry Friday confirmed its first case of coronavirus, a 58-year-old French citizen who arrived in the capital Yaounde on Feb. 24. It said the man has been quarantined in the city’s Central Hospital.
The West African country of Togo reported its first case on Friday. The patient is a 42-year-old female resident of the capital Lome who had visited Benin, Germany, France and Turkey in late February and early March. Togo is the fifth sub-Saharan country to report coronavirus after Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Cameroon.
Peru recorded its first confirmed case of coronavirus, President Martin Vizcarra said in a televised statement on Friday, as the disease begins to spread in South America. The patient is a 25-year-old man who had travelled to Spain, France and the Czech Republic, Vizcarra added. South American neighbours Argentina and Chile also announced their first confirmed cases this week, while a number of cases have been confirmed in Brazil.
Australia, which has previously said it is planning for a major outbreak, announced a $1-billion AUS (around $890 million Cdn) plan to tackle COVID-19. Some businesses in Australia were closed Friday amid concern over suspected cases.
Singapore, praised by WHO for its efforts to prevent the virus from spreading, warned Friday that deaths would become “inevitable” as a global pandemic emerges. More than two months since its first case, Singapore has kept infections to just over 100 people with no deaths.
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