The number of deaths from the novel coronavirus doubled in a week to more than 10,000 on Friday, led by large jumps in Italy, Iran and Spain, and increasing the urgency for governments all over the world to contain the pandemic.
Deaths from the pneumonia-causing pathogen have more than quadrupled in the U.S. over the past week to 205, while confirmed infections in the country have surged to 14,250 from around 1,700 on March 13.
The state of California on Thursday night ordered its 40 million residents to stay at home and go out for only essential activities, the largest such lockdown in the U.S. The State Department separately advised U.S. citizens not to travel internationally and urged those overseas to return home immediately or remain abroad indefinitely.
Globally, there were more than 245,000 confirmed cases of the disease known as Covid-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, with two-thirds of the cases outside of mainland China, where the new respiratory virus was first identified in late 2019.
Latest on the Coronavirus
- More than 10,000 deaths and more than 245,000 confirmed cases globally
- Deaths in the U.S. more than quadruple in week to 205
- 14,250 confirmed cases in the U.S.
- California orders its 40 million residents to stay home
Scientists and governments have warned that infection rates would continue to climb rapidly unless drastic measures are taken to stop people from traveling and congregating. The challenge health authorities face is that infected people can go days without showing symptoms and pass the virus to others before falling sick. In larger countries, some people can’t get tested for the coronavirus, so actual case numbers could be much higher than reported totals.
Iran registered 149 new deaths, bringing its total to 1,433, while the number of diagnosed cases jumped by 1,237 to 19,644, according to the health ministry. Iran’s judiciary said prisoners with security-related sentences of less than five years would be subject to release to prevent the virus from spreading in prisons. The announcement came after at least 85,000 prisoners were released ahead of the Persian New Year.
In Iraq, thousands of Shiite pilgrims defied a curfew and flocked to Baghdad’s Kadhimiya shrine to commemorate the anniversary of the death of an imam buried there. Authorities at the shrine urged pilgrims to stay away and called on security forces to enforce a curfew imposed on the Iraqi capital. Iraq’s health ministry said many shops were ignoring instructions to close.
Talks between the U.K. and the European Union on their post-Brexit relationship were on pause after both sides’ chief negotiators placed themselves in self-isolation. The British government said its chief negotiator, David Frost, was staying home after showing mild symptoms of the coronavirus. The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Thursday he had caught the illness.
This week’s negotiating round had already been canceled as the U.K. and EU try to find a way to hold the complex trade talks over videoconference. The disruption is raising speculation among analysts that the trade talks between the two sides will have to be extended beyond the end of the year.
A day earlier, Italy surpassed China as the country with the highest death toll, with 3,405 fatalities from the coronavirus, even though it has about half the number of confirmed cases. The Mediterranean country has the world’s second-oldest population and elderly people have been more vulnerable to the virus.
China’s health commission on Friday reported a second day without locally transmitted coronavirus infections, though the country said there were 39 new cases among people who were recently abroad, taking total cases to 80,967. Deaths from Covid-19 in China increased slightly to 3,248. The Chinese Fencing Association said three of its athletes tested positive for the virus upon arriving in Beijing earlier this week, following a trip to Hungary.
The country has shifted its focus in recent days to preventing infected travelers from causing a second wave of infections. State-run carrier Air China Ltd. will start diverting Beijing-bound flights from Moscow, Paris, Tokyo and Toronto to airports in nearby cities such as Tianjin, Hohhot and Taiyuan, so they can be screened for symptoms there.
In Australia, authorities in New South Wales state were trying to contact some 2,700 passengers who had disembarked from the Ruby Princess cruise ship in Sydney on Thursday, after four people who were on the ship tested positive for the coronavirus.
One infected person is a crew member who is among more than 1,000 crew still on the ship, which traveled between Sydney and New Zealand. New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard said passengers provided contact details to authorities when they disembarked but that some had yet to respond to efforts to contact them. Authorities want to ensure every passenger is in self-quarantine, as required in Australia.
“The very big concern is that those people came off the cruise with no knowledge of Covid actually being on their ship,” Mr. Hazzard said.
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In Hong Kong, the number of confirmed cases nearly doubled in the past week to 256, despite school closures and other shutdowns in the city that are now in their seventh week. Most of the new cases were among people who recently traveled to Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere. Hong Kong a day earlier started requiring all people arriving to self-quarantine for two weeks.
The jump in imported cases might lead to the virus spreading locally in Hong Kong, said Ben Cowling, head of the epidemiology and biostatistics division at Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health.
The city’s flagship carrier, Cathay Pacific, and its subsidiary, Cathay Dragon, said Friday that they would reduce passenger capacity by 96% in April and May, citing a severe drop in demand and restrictions on travel globally.
Elsewhere in Asia, the spread of Covid-19 appears to be slowing. Japan added 36 cases, bringing its total number to 950, while in South Korea the confirmed infections rose by 87 to 8,652. The death toll in both countries remains less than 100.
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Note: Data begins when Johns Hopkins and WHO began publishing daily global case numbers. China first reported a pneumonia cluster in Wuhan in early December 2019.
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