Photo via Bernama

BRUSSELS: The chief of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday that the novel coronavirus has got a foothold in so many countries and the threat of a pandemic has become very real, reported Xinhua news agency.

His words came as Cyprus confirmed its first two Covid-19 cases, which means all EU members have reported cases of infection.

European countries have begun to upgrade their containment measures.

In Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Monday evening that measures to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus will be extended to the entire country in the next hours.

‘Threat of pandemic very real’

Covid-19 is an uneven epidemic at the global level, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a daily briefing, reminding that different countries are in different scenarios, requiring a tailored response.

It would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled, the WHO head also noted.

He called on all countries to take a comprehensive blended strategy for controlling their epidemics and pushing this virus back.

Tedros also said of the around 80,000 reported cases of Covid-19 in China, more than 70 per cent have recovered and been discharged.

Among the countries with the most cases, China is bringing its epidemic under control.

He stressed that the transmission of coronavirus can be slowed down and infections can be prevented through decisive and early actions.

“Countries that continue finding and testing cases and tracing their contacts not only protect their own people, they can also affect what happens in other countries and globally,” said Tedros.

Infections keep rising in Europe

The Italian authorities said Monday the number of people who tested positive for the new coronavirus reached 7,985, an increase of 1,598 new infections compared to the previous day, and did not include recoveries or fatalities.

Considering all data (including deaths and recoveries), the number of assessed coronavirus cases in the country was 9,172. Also on Monday, Germany confirmed the first two deaths from Covid-19, both in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), German local media Focus reported.

According to official data, the number of confirmed cases in Germany rose to 1,112 by Monday morning, 484 of which are in NRW. In France, 1,412 cases of coronavirus infection have been confirmed and 25 patients have died, director-general of Health Jerome Salomon announced on Monday evening.

Both Spain and Denmark eye-witnessed rapid growth in confirmed cases on Monday.

The number of confirmed cases in Spain rose from just under 600 on Sunday to over 1,000, with the death toll increasing from 10 to 26. Denmark saw its total number of Covid-19 infections rise to 90 by Monday afternoon, a sharp increase from Sunday’s 35, according to an update on the website of the National Board of Health on Monday evening.

The virus has affected some international organisations. The Brussels-based North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) confirmed a case of coronavirus infection in its headquarters on Monday morning. The staff member is currently at home in self-isolation.

New measures to stem spread

European countries have stepped up efforts and put in place new containment measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.

In France, all gatherings of more than 1,000 people are now prohibited across French cities. Only events considered “useful to the life of the nation” will be maintained.

The new measures also included a decree making telemedicine more flexible and available to the public. In addition, hospitals would trigger the “white plan” of extra mobilisation systems to cope with the additional influx of patients linked to the coronavirus. It allows to reinforce additional nursing and administrative staff, offer more beds and limit patient visits.

In Spain’s autonomous community of Madrid, schools and universities will be closed for 14 days starting from Wednesday, the region’s president Isabel Diaz Ayuso confirmed. Romania also unveiled similar plans. The country’s interim Prime Minister Ludovic Orban announced that all primary and secondary schools, as well as kindergartens across the country, will be closed on March 11-22.

Romanian Interim Interior Minister Marcel Vela added that the road and rail transport of people to and from Italy will be suspended from Tuesday to the end of the month. In Poland, medical controls have been introduced on the borders with Germany and the Czech Republic.

“I want to emphasise that in the next several dozen hours we will be expanding the scope of these checks to other border crossings,” said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

In Croatia, the National Civil Protection Authority introduced new protection measures, requiring all foreign nationals from the outbreak’s hotspots to stay in mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival. In the Czech Republic, the national security council decided to ban visits to inpatient hospital wards, which will take effect on Tuesday.

In Slovenia, Health Minister Ales Sabeder announced that the checking of passengers arriving at Ljubljana JoZe Pucnik airport is expected to be introduced in a few days.

As for airlines, Air Malta, Malta Air and Ryanair have announced cancellations of all flights to and from north Italy. French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday urged European countries to coordinate actions to curb the Covid-19 outbreak.

“In order to face Covid-19 … I call on our European partners to take urgent action to coordinate health measures, research efforts and our economic response,” Macron said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, in VIETNAM, Covid-19 infections rose to 32. Vietnam confirmed a new Covid-19 infection in southern Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday, bringing the total infected cases to 32, according to the country’s Ministry of Health.

The new patient is a 24-year-old Vietnamese girl returning to the country from Britain on Monday. She was reportedly in contact with a 26-year-old Vietnamese girl confirmed to be the 17th case to contract the virus on Friday.

In JAPAN, infections rose to 510 with the death toll at 16. Japan’s health ministry and local governments said that the number of infections increased by two on Tuesday to stand at a total of 510 infected people in Japan as of 10.30 am local time here.

Of the 510 confirmed cases in Japan, not including those related to the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship previously quarantined in Yokohama, the majority are in Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido which has confirmed 108 cases and declared a state of emergency over the situation.

Aichi Prefecture, meanwhile, has 86 confirmed cases, Tokyo 64, Osaka 55, Kanagawa 41 and Chiba Prefecture has confirmed 22 COVID-19 infections, according to the latest statistics from health ministry and local authorities.

AUSTRALIA recorded 100 confirmed cases, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Tuesday.

“Within Australia we now have 100 officially confirmed cases and sadly there have been three lives lost,” Hunt said.

Following a ramping up of containment measures in Italy, Hunt said that Australian authorities would consider introducing more rigid restrictions on arrivals from the country.

In INDIA, with the confirmation of one more positive case, India’s Health Ministry said the total number of novel coronavirus cases has risen to 45 in the country with the latest confirmed case in Bengaluru on Monday evening.

“As many as 11,913 cases are under the Integrated Disease Surveillance Program (IDSP) IDSP community follow-up. There are now 286 doctors, 160 nurses and 295 paramedics stationed at airports across the country.”

Nearby in PAKISTAN, Covid-19 infections have rose to 16 after nine new patients tested positive in the country’s southern port city Karachi of Sindh province, the provincial health department said late Monday night.

Pakistan has been taking stringent measures to contain the spread of the disease in the country, including a strict screening system at airports and border crossings and the closing of schools for more than two weeks in Sindh and southwest Balochistan.

THE PHILIPPINES reported 24 confirmed cases.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of classes in all schools in the capital city of Manila for four days.

Duterte told a news conference that the four additional cases were reported in Metro Manila and the outlying Bulacan province. He did not provide more details. He said there is no epidemic yet in the country despite the “galloping” number of cases.

Duterte declared a state public health emergency earlier on Monday after the Department of Health confirmed the local Covid-19 transmission in the country.

MONGOLIA reported its first case when a French national tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the State Emergency Commission said Tuesday.

“Initially, the man was screened and not tested positive for Covid-19. But he began to develop a fever on Saturday,” said Enkhtuvshin.

“He was then tested for Covid-19 and preliminary tests were deemed to be positive.” – Agencies

The spread of the novel coronavirus across the globe. Image grab: thewuhanvirus.com