In India, till March 7, 2020, the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 has risen to 34, three more from Friday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a review meeting on Saturday and asked the health ministry to immediately identify sufficient locations for quarantine and also for critical care provisioning in case the disease spreads.
More than 100,300 people have been infected globally by coronavirus , according to a Reuters tally based on statements from health ministries and government officials. Mainland China has seen more than 3,000 deaths, but the novel coronavirus is now spreading faster elsewhere.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said every country should make containing the epidemic its top priority, pointing to Iran's national action plan to combat one of the worst outbreaks after a slow start.
Here are the updates:
Three more in India test positive, total rises to 34
Three more cases have been found to be positive, taking the total in India to 34.
“Two cases have been reported from Ladakh with travel history to Iran while one case has come in from Tamil Nadu with travel history to Oman. All the cases are stable,” noted a release issued by the Union Health Ministry on Saturday.
The Ministry has added that in the case of the two American nationals found positive in Bhutan with travel history to various places in India, more than 150 of their contacts have been put under surveillance.
Pope Francis to deliver Sunday’s prayer by livestream
Pope Francis has cancelled his main public appearances to avoid crowds gathering to see him and will stream them on the internet from inside the Vatican because of the Coronavirus outbreak in Italy.
The Vatican said that on Sunday he would not address crowds from a window overlooking St. Peter's Square and would not hold his general audience there either on Wednesday.
They will be held without general public participation from inside the Vatican.
The 83-year-old pope cancelled a Lent retreat for the first time in his papacy, but the Vatican has said he is suffering only from a cold that is “without symptoms related to other pathologies”.
Saudi Arabia reopens area around sacred Kaaba
Saudi Arabia reopened on Saturday the area around the sacred Kaaba in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, reversing one of a series of measures introduced to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
Saudi authorities this week suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage, during which worshippers circle the Kaaba seven times, and also announced the temporary closure of the area around the cube structure.
But King Salman has “allowed for the opening of the Mataf (where people circle the Kaaba) for non-umrah performers” starting on Saturday at dawn, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Hundreds of Muslims were seen rotating around the Kaaba, but the area between two hills that pilgrims must go between seven times to complete umrah remained closed.
Barricades blocked access to the Kaaba, draped in a gold-embroidered black cloth, while men in green uniforms cleaned the white-tiled floor.
Authorities had emptied the Grand Mosque for sterilisation on Thursday.
The unprecedented suspension of the umrah has raised uncertainty over the annual hajj pilgrimage, scheduled for the end of July.
Authorities have said prayers will be allowed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina and in Mecca’s Grand Mosque while the umrah is suspended, apart from during nighttime cleaning and sterilisation.
PM holds review meet, asks officials to ensure sufficient quarantine, critical care facilities
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the coronavirus situation in the country at a meeting with officials on Saturday and directed them to identify locations for sufficient quarantine facilities and make provisions for critical care in case the disease spreads further.
At the meeting with all Ministries and Departments concerned, he said that in view of expert opinion, people should be advised to avoid mass gatherings as much as possible and made aware of the do’s and don’ts.
Watch | COVID-19: Dos and don'ts from the Health Ministry
Assam on high alert after U.S. tourist tests positive for COVID-19 in Bhutan
Assam on Saturday went on a sanitising and quarantining overdrive along the route taken by a U.S. tourist during his tour of the State before leaving for Bhutan where he tested positive for COVID-19 on March 5.
The tourist had begun his India tour on February 21 and had gone on a seven-day cruise on the Brahmaputra River three days later. He stayed at a five-star hotel in Guwahati and a resort in eastern Assam’s Jorhat town beyond the Kaziranga National Park.
Click here to read Rahul Karmakar's full report.
UP Governor cancels annual Holi Milan programme
In view of coronavirus, Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel has cancelled the March 9 ‘Holi Milan’ programme as a preventive measure, the Raj Bhawan said on Saturday.
Earlier, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had decided to stay away from ‘Holi Milan’ programmes and had appealed to people to refrain from attending social functions in view of coronavirus.
“Coronavirus is an infectious virus and its infection spreads from one person to another. Therefore, protection is more important than treatment,” he had said in a tweet.
“It is my appeal to all the people of the state to refrain from attending social functions and take good care of themselves and their families with full responsibility,” the Chief Minister had said.
Flight brings swabs of Indians from Iran
A flight from Tehran on Saturday brought to the national capital swab samples of Indians in Iran who are suspected of having coronavirus infection , an airport official said.
The flight, operated by Mahan Air, returned with many Iranian nationals at around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, an official at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here said.
The flight landed at around 5:30 a.m.
Two tested positive in Punjab
Samples of two persons who had returned to Punjab from Italy have been tested positive for COVID-19 in a preliminary report, according to a senior government official.
Both have been admitted at Government Medical College and Hospital in Amritsar.
“So far, samples of two persons who came from Italy had been admitted in GMCH Amritsar after they tested positive in preliminary report of AIIMS, Delhi. The final reports were awaited from NIV, Pune, where the samples had been sent,” Anurag Agarwal, principal secretary (Health) told The Hindu .
“These patients were hospitalised and kept in the isolation ward as they were found to be symptomatic on their arrival, a few days ago at Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport in Amritsar. Confirmation report of both patients is still awaited, which we are expecting in a day or two,” he said.
Iranian MP dies from coronavirus: state media
An Iranian lawmaker has died from coronavirus, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Saturday, in an another sign the disease is spreading within State institutions.
The MP who died on Friday is Fatemeh Rahbar, a conservative lawmaker from Tehran, Tasnim said. It did not say if she was included in the country's official toll of 124 deaths from the virus, given on Friday.
On March 2, Tasnim reported the death of Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a member of the Expediency Council, intended to resolve disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council, a governmental body that vets electoral candidates among other duties.
Iran's deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, and another member of parliament, Mahmoud Sadeghi, have also said they have contracted the virus.
Kuwait imposes travel ban; Air India cancels flight
Passengers heading for Kuwait from Calicut International Airport at Karipur were sent back home on Saturday morning when Kuwait imposed a travel ban on seven countries, including India, because of COVID-19 scare.
Air India Express cancelled its flight to Kuwait, which was to carry 170 passengers from Karipur. When Air India could alert some passengers about the cancellation before they left their home, the others had to be sent back from the airport. Confusion and uncertainties prevailed at the airport as many passengers were caught unawares. -- Abdul Latheef Naha
Srinagar mayor calls for cancellation of Khelo India winter games
Amid the COVID-19 scare, Srinagar Mayor Junaid Mattu has called for cancellation of Khelo India’s first winter games chapter, which starts in Jammu and Kashmir’s Gulmarg town on Saturday.
Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju has reached Kashmir to inaugurate the event, which would continue till Wednesday. Around 800-900 sportspersons will be taking part in different events at the ski-resort in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.
“In view of the #COVID2019 situation, I personally believe the ‘Khelo India’ sports event in Gulmarg should be cancelled,” Mr. Mattu tweeted on Friday evening. “I have conveyed this to the administration as well as the Lieutenant Governor of J&K, Sh. G. C. Murmu. Precautions are vital.”
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter, Iltija Mufti, has also criticised the administration for allowing the sports event.
“At a time when Coronovirus (sic) has caused a global health crisis & EU - India summit deferred, J&K admin is organising a massive sports event in Gulmarg. Why should Kashmiris bear a staggering cost for showcasing ‘normalcy’?” Ms. Iltija, who uses her mother’s verified Twitter handle, said.
Stay away from rumours regarding COVID-19, says Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday asked people to stay away from rumours regarding COVID-19 and emphasised on the need to follow the advice of doctors in this regard.
He also asked people to avoid handshakes and start greeting others with ‘namaste’ once again.
Mr. Modi was interacting with owners of Jan Aushadhi Kendras and beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojna (PMBJP) through video conference.
“I appeal to my fellow countrymen to stay away from rumours regarding coronavirus,” Mr. Modi said.
“We need to follow the advice of doctors in this regard, he said. People should avoid handshakes and start greeting others with ‘namaste’ once again,” the Prime Minister added.
Talking about the impact of the PMBJP initiative, he said every month, over one crore families are getting benefits of cheap medicines from these Jan Aushadhi Kendras.
Over 6,000 Jan Aushadhi Kendras across the country have helped people save between Rs 2,000-2,500 crore, he added.
Barring Italian couple, all suspected COVID-19 cases show negative test results
Barring those of an Italian couple, all the samples collected from suspected COVID-19 cases in Rajasthan have tested negative, an official said.
“The total number of samples tested so far is 282. Of those, 280 have tested negative and two positive (of the Italian couple),” Additional Chief Secretary, Medical and Health, Rohit Kumar Singh said.
He said no sample was pending as of now.
The couple is admitted to the SMS hospital in Jaipur.
Mr. Singh said the department was put on alert and all measures were taken to handle the situation.
After the confirmation of COVID-19 in the elderly Italian couple, who was part of a group of tourists that visited Jhunjhunu, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Jaipur from February 21 to 28, samples of those who came in contact with them were taken. These samples tested negative at the laboratory of SMS Medical College.
Indian among 15 new COVID-19 cases in UAE
An Indian national is among 15 new cases of the deadly coronavirus in the UAE, taking the total number of confirmed infections in the country to 45, health officials have said.
The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) said in a statement that 13 out of 15 new cases in the UAE recently arrived from abroad.
They were diagnosed through early monitoring and reporting systems implemented in the country and are three Emiratis, two individuals from Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Iran as well as a person each from Thailand, Morocco, China and India, the statement said.
“The UAE announces recovery of two cases of COVID-19 and reported a 15 cases of different nationalities have tested positive for the virus, taking to 45 the total infections in the country,” the MoHAP tweeted.
Five individuals in close contact with COVID-19 patients have also been screened, placed under health quarantine and subjected to preventive measures to curb the spread of the virus in the country, the statement added.
All cases are being monitored round-the clock, are in a stable condition and are receiving all necessary health care required, the statement said.
2 dead in Miami who tested COVID-19 positive
Florida health officials say two people who tested positive for the new coronavirus have died.
The Florida Department of Health said that the two patients who died were in their 70s and had travelled overseas. One of them was a man with underlying health issues in Santa Rosa County, in Florida’s Panhandle, according to the statement.
It said the second death was that of an elderly person in the Fort Myers area.
Florida also raised on Friday the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the new virus strain, from four to seven.
Officials had previously announced five Florida residents who had been travelling in China have also been quarantined elsewhere after testing positive for the virus.
Florida authorities are announcing both people who have tested positive for the virus in the state as well as Florida residents who have tested positive elsewhere, and who may be part of other state tallies.
Two suspected coronavirus patients suffering from ‘high viral load’
J&K administration has ordered closure of schools in Jammu and Samba after reports of two patients suffering of "high viral load" cases.
J&K government spokesman Rohit Kansal said that all primary schools in Jammu and Samba districts have been ordered to be closed immediately till March 31.
The reports of tests of these patients are yet to confirm if they have contracted novel Coronavirus or anything else.
"There is high probability of them testing positive (for COVID-19)," an official said. -- Peerzada Ashiq
COVID 19 : Visva Bharati postpones Vasanta Utsav
Visva-Bharati has decided to postpone Vasanta Utsav (Celebration of Spring) a century long tradition at the university set up by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. After several hours of meeting on the university's executive council on Friday evening, the authorities at Santiniketan announced the decision to postpone the festival which is held on the occasion of Holi.
The authorities said that they were left with no option after a letter from Ministry of Human Resource Development which has advised the universities not to have large gatherings on the campus. The authorities cited a letter by University Grants Commission secretary Rajnish Jain.
"We were keen on organising the festival this year. The State government was also willing to extend all its cooperation. The crowd this year was expected to about five lakhs. But this year Vasanta Utsav is not happening," Sushovan Banerjee, the president's nominee to the University the executive council said.
Finally, India shares two SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences
India has finally shared two whole genome sequence data of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) with the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID).
The two sequences were shared by the Pune-based National Institute of Virology. This news comes after The Hindu reported on March 4 that India has not shared any genome sequence data with the GISAID.
“We shared the two sequences with GISAID on March 5 evening,” said Priya Abraham, Director of NIV. “We had shared the sequences with GenBank about two weeks ago.”
China reports 28 virus deaths, rise in new cases outside epicentre
China on Saturday reported 28 new deaths from the coronavirus outbreak, bringing the nationwide toll to 3,070.
There were 99 fresh cases of infection, according to the National Health Commission, with a rise in new cases outside the virus epicentre of Hubei province for a third consecutive day.
There were 25 new cases reported outside the central province, which remains under lockdown in a bid to control the spread of the virus.
Death toll nears 200 in Italy
The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has risen by 49 to 197, the Civil Protection Agency said, the largest daily increase in fatalities since the contagion was uncovered two weeks ago.
Italy is currently reporting more deaths per day from the virus than any other country in the world and the government this week ordered the closure of schools, universities, cinemas and theatres around the country to try to stem the infections.
The cumulative number of cases in the country, which has been the hardest hit in Europe by the epidemic, totalled 4,636 compared with 3,858 on Thursday.
TN to establish quarantine facilities for persons suspected to have COVID-19
Tamil Nadu is planning to establish full-fledged quarantine facilities for persons suspected to have coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the outskirts of Chennai and Madurai, Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar said.
“We presently have 300 beds in isolation wards across the State, and can increase these if needed. Now, the Chief Minister has allotted special funds to set up separate quarantine wards in the outer areas of Chennai and Madurai. These facilities are to quarantine persons whom we suspect to have coronavirus disease during screenings, on an emergency basis. We are working on establishing these facilities simultaneously,” he told reporters on Friday.
Govt. goes the whole hog to tackle coronavirus in State
The government has decided to spend ₹60 crore on maintenance of special wards in Vijayawada and Anantapur to treat coronavirus patients.
The government has also decided to earmark ₹200 crore to meet exigencies, if any.
These apart, a call centre will be set up to disseminate information on the COVID-19 suspected cases. There are no ‘positive’ cases so far in the State.
EU seeks united front to tackle medical shortages from virus
Fearing a possible shortage in masks and protective equipment to fight the new coronavirus, top European Union officials are urging members to put solidarity above national interests as the virus spreads quickly across the continent.
Speaking Friday after an urgent meeting in Brussels of health ministers from the 27-country bloc, crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarcic said EU nations are entitled to restrict exports of medical equipment but warned that such decisions could compromise the EU’s ability to manage the growing COVID-19 virus crisis.
While Italy is the hardest-hit country in Europe, with 197 deaths and over 4,600 cases, more than 6,470 infections have been recorded across the bloc. The epidemic has been spreading at a quicker pace over the past two weeks, leading the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) to raise the risk of coronavirus infection from moderate to high.
Preparedness has to be enhanced still further because simply it is more probable that what we have now in Italy will happen elsewhere in Europe, Lenarcic said.
S.Korea confirms 174 new coronavirus cases, total to 6,767
South Korea's new confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday rose by 174 from late Friday, taking the national tally to 6,767, the Korea Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.
The death toll remained unchanged at 44 from late Friday, the KCDC added.
The number of the contagious disease has spiked in South Korea since mid-February when a 61-year-old woman known as ”Patient 31” tested positive after attending religious services at a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southeastern city of Daegu.
The coronavirus, which emerged in China, has spread to more than 90 countries, infecting more than 100,000 people and killing over 3,400 people globally.
Coronavirus: UN asks 9 countries to delay peacekeeper rotations
The United Nations has asked nine countries, including China, South Korea and France, to delay by three months the rotations of their UN peacekeeping forces due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The request was made on Friday to the countries “to maintain operational strength and execute their mandated tasks,” diplomatic sources at the UN said.
The nine countries also include Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, India, Italy and Germany — all of which have experienced significant outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus.
The UN peacekeeping missions, known as the Blue Helmets, are under constant reassessment in relation to the rotations of the soldiers and police, who are deployed to the mission by their home countries.
The UN wants to keep the deployed troops healthy while maintaining the continuity of the operations.
The Blue Helmets have around 100,000 people in peacekeeping operations in 15 countries.
Overall risk to the American public from COVID-19 remains low: Trump
US President Donald Trump has said the overall risk to the American public from deadly COVID-19 remains low.
"I think at this point, the overall risk to the American public does remain low," Mr. Trump told reporters on Friday after he visited Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta.
According to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus tracker at least 299 cases of COVID-19 have been detected in the US and 14 people have died due to it.
The total number of cases globally stands at 101,88 with 3,460 deaths, as per the data compiled by the university. India has reported 31 cases of COVID-19, the university said.
Coronavirus infects 100,000-plus worldwide
Twenty-one people aboard a cruise ship that was barred from docking in San Francisco have tested positive for coronavirus, U.S. officials said on Friday, adding to the more than 100,000 cases of the fast-spreading illness across the world.
Vice President Mike Pence, recently appointed as the U.S. government's point man on the outbreak, said the cruise ship Grand Princess will be brought to an unspecified non-commercial port where all 2,400 some passengers and 1,100 crew members will now be tested.
“Those that need to be quarantined, will be quarantined. Those that require additional medical attention will receive it,” Pence told reporters at the White House.
21 people test positive for virus aboard cruise ship off San Francisco
Twenty-one people have tested positive for COVID-19 aboard a cruise ship denied entry to San Francisco Bay this week after a number of passengers and crew developed flu-like symptoms on the vessel, which was linked to previously confirmed COVID-19 infections.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, announcing results of the tests during a White House briefing, also said the cruise ship Grand Princess will be brought to an unspecified non-commercial port where all passengers and crew, about 3,500 people, will be tested for COVID-19.
Diagnostic test kits were flown by an Air National Guard helicopter on Thursday to the cruise ship, where medical staff took samples from 46 passengers and crew to determine if they have contracted the respiratory virus.
Want N95 mask? Get doctor’s prescription
In a new mandate to curb unnecessary demand, the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration on Friday said that chemists cannot sell N95 masks without a doctors prescription. The FDA also warned that serious action would be taken against those who are found selling masks at high prices or hoarding them.
“Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits and N95 masks are being sold at very high prices in medical shops.The State has received many complaints about the same. It has also been found that many are making bulk purchases and hording PPE kits and N95 masks,” FDA commissioner Arun Unhale stated in his circular, adding that it is now compulsory to sell the kits and masks only on doctors prescription.
(With inputs from Agencies)