Coronavirus is at the “tipping point” of becoming a pandemic, experts have warned, as the disease killed five people in Italy. The UK has confirmed four new cases and several more have emerged in the Middle East in people who had travelled from Iran. Four people brought back to Britain from Japan, where they had been quarantined aboard
Coronavirus is at the “tipping point” of becoming a pandemic, experts have warned, as the disease killed five people in Italy. The UK has confirmed four new cases and several more have emerged in the Middle East in people who had travelled from Iran.
Four people brought back to Britain from Japan, where they had been quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, were diagnosed with the virus, while Kuwait, Iraq and Bahrain announced they had detected their first cases. South Korea is also battling a rising number of infections around the city of Daegu, with 70 new cases announced on Monday bringing the total to 833.
Professor Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia, said the rise in new infections outside China was “extremely concerning”, and added: “The tipping point after which our ability to prevent a global pandemic seems a lot closer after the past 24 hours.”
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Alitalia has issued a statement after passengers on one of its planes were turned back from Mauritius.
Flight AZ772 from Rome to Mauritius landed “regularly” at 10.45am local time with 212 passengers and 12 crew, the airline said.
It added: “According to provisions of the Mauritius authorities, not sent to the company before the flight’s arrival, the disembarkation of 40 people originating from Lombardy and Veneto regions would have been subject to a local quarantine.
“At the request of these people and in constant coordination with the Farnesina crisis unit, Alitalia is therefore preparing their immediate return, although none of them has declared symptoms of illness.
“Alitalia immediately involved the competent authorities in order to clarify the possible existence of restrictions on the mobility of Italian citizens who are not subject to any of the current restrictions.”
WHO: China efforts helped prevent hundreds of thousands of cases
Bruce Aylward, speaking at a joint press briefing with officials from China’s National Health Commission (NHC), said multiple data sources supported the general downward trend in the number infections being reported by the commission despite some statistical issues observed in recent weeks.
A delegate of WHO officials have inspected various parts of China in recent days, including Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and the epicentre of the outbreak.
The NHC earlier on Monday reported 409 new coronavirus cases, down from 648 a day earlier, with China now beginning to unwind transport and travel curbs put in place since January to keep the virus from spreading further.
More than 20 province-level jurisdictions including Beijing and Shanghai reported zero infections, the best showing since the outbreak began.
The UK has supplied equipment including face masks to China to help fight the spread of coronavirus, No 10 said.
“We have been supplying help to the Chinese government. We have supplied them with 1,800 goggles, 430,000 disposable gloves, 194,000 sanitising wipes, 37,500 medical gowns and 2,500 facemasks,” the PM’s spokesperson said.
Asked whether the UK could put in place restrictive measures such as those seen in Italy to combat the spread of the disease, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “We will be led by the advice from public health and medical experts and will take steps which they feel are required to best protect the British public.”
The risk to individuals “remains low” and 99 per cent of those tested in the UK had come back negative, the spokesperson added.
“We are well prepared for UK cases, we are using tried and tested procedures to prevent further spread and the NHS is extremely well prepared and used to managing infections.
“We continue to work closely with the World Health Organisation and international partners as the situation develops and we remain prepared for all eventualities.”
Another scientist has weighed in on Professor Paul Hunter’s assertion that coronavirus is nearing a “tipping point” into pandemic status.
David Heymann, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said coronavirus remained “a series of outbreaks”.
He added: “Countries where they are occurring should make every effort to stop transmission and all countries should prepare for more widespread occurrence if it happens.
“Transmissibility in the community is not yet fully understood – terms such as pandemic are distracting – [and] what is necessary is to understand the current situation in each country.
“Outbreaks must be stopped if possible, and if there is community spread also, community mitigation such as social distancing should be considered along the lines of pandemic preparedness plans for influenza that countries may decide to roll out.
“It is for the World Health Organisation (WHO) to determine when the outbreaks should be called a pandemic and they will do this based on information from many different sources.”
WHO has said it no longer uses the term “pandemic”, but added that the coronavirus remained an international emergency.
Under the old system, a pandemic was declared when a new disease spread to several countries and showed sustained transmission between humans.
The World Health Organisation will use the term “pandemic” to describe the coronavirus outbreak if it reaches that stage, a spokesperson has said.
Margaret Harris said: “We could start describing it as a pandemic, but at the moment we are saying it is clusters and outbreaks in some countries.
“If it became clear that it is all around the globe and we are seeing systematic community transmission, then we would say this meets the definition of a pandemic.”
In most cases there was a clear epidemiological link between those affected and cases reported in Asia, she added.
Oil prices have slumped by more than 4 per cent over coronavirus fears, the Agence France-Presse news agency reports.
On Friday The Independent reported that China’s greenhouse gas emissions had fallen by one-quarter in just two weeks.
Measures to halt the spread of coronavirus had led to a sharp drop in the burning of fossil fuels.
Masked carabinieri are manning checkpoints around quarantined towns in northern Italy.
Further afield, Italians travelling abroad are also experiencing tighter security. A bus from Milan was barricaded by police in Lyon, France, for health checks and an arriving Alitalia plane was blocked on the runway in Mauritius.
An Iranian politician appears to have corroborated an earlier media report that 50 people have died in Qom.
Ahmad Amiriabadi Farahani, the city’s representative, was quoted as saying there had been 50 fatalities this month.
But Iraj Harirchi, a health ministry spokesman, rejected the claim and said just 12 people had been killed.
Indonesia has dispatched a naval vessel to repatriate 188 citizens currently working as crew aboard the World Dream cruise ship because of coronavirus fears.
The liner had been denied entry in Taiwan before it docked in Hong Kong, where its 1,800 passengers left.
World Dream is now in international waters off Singapore.
The crew members will be quarantined for up to 28 days. A naval ship equipped with medical facilities would deposit them on an uninhabited island north of Jakarta for observation, officials said.
As concern grows over the spread of the coronavirus known as Covid-19, moves are taking place that will impact on travellers, writes Simon Calder.
In Europe, Italy has the highest number of cases.
The Foreign Office says the Italian government has ordered the the isolation of 10 small towns in Lombardy: Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano.
These are mainly southeast of Milan. There is also one town in Veneto, Vo’ Euganeo – south of Vicenza.
Misinformation and exaggeration about coronavirus have led to a wave of racist attacks on Asian Americans across the US, writes Oliver O’Connell.
The attacks are both physical and verbal, and there are also cases of people either from east Asia, or of east Asian descent, being turned away from businesses.
Incidents include a racist tirade against a Thai woman on the LA subway; a vicious assault on an Asian woman on the New York subway; and two hotels in Indiana refusing to accommodate Asian guests.
The FTSE dropped at its fastest rate since October as coronavirus fears gathered pace on Monday.
The market dropped 3 per cent by 10am, reaching 7179.94, its lowest point since December.
Airlines were worst-hit.
A fifth person has died of coronavirus in northern Italy, officials have said.
The patient was 88 years old and from Lombardy, the chief of the Civil Protection agency said on Monday.
Giorgio Armani held his runway show at Milan Fashion Week in an empty theatre amid coronavirus fears, writes Sabrina Barr.
On Sunday, Armani released a statement announcing that the fashion show, which was due to take place that afternoon in front of an audience, would be live-streamed online instead.
The statement outlined that this decision had been made in order to “safeguard the well-being” of guests who had been invited to the catwalk.
Iraqi officials in the Shia holy city of Najaf have announced the country’s first case of coronavirus. An Iranian theology student tested positive.
The patient had entered Iraq before the government shut border crossings and banned the entry of any non-Iraqis coming from Iran, the health ministry said in a statement.
Mongolia has stopped all flights from South Korea, where more than 830 people have been infected with coronavirus.
The country’s emergency commission will also block entry through its borders until 2 March, having previously taken similar measures on its frontier with China.
It has not recorded any infections, but has already closed all schools until 2 March.
A Japanese dinner lady has tested positive for coronavirus, officials have said.
The education board in the city of Ebetsu said the woman, aged in her 50s, was responsible for serving lunch to elementary school pupils, according to The Mainichi.
The school building will be disinfected by Tuesday, and no pupils have reported feeling unwell, the site reported.
The European Union is ready to play “a leading role” in combating coronavirus, the EU Commission president has said.