The number of people infected with the novel coronavirus charged toward 100,000 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.
Across the West, there was a sense of déja vu as the virus’s spread prompted scenes that already played out in Asia, with workers foregoing offices, vigorous sanitizing in public places and runs on household basics. Even the spectacle of a cruise ship ordered to stay at sea off the California coast over virus fears replicated ones weeks ago on the other side of the globe.
Signs of the virus’s shift away from its origins in China were becoming clearer each day.
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.
Here’s what’s happening in Canada
Health officials in B.C. are investigating after a woman who had no travel history to areas dealing with a coronavirus outbreak and hadn’t been in contact with COVID-19 patients tested positive for the illness. The woman in her 50s 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.
Meanwhile, in eastern Ontario a group of Canadians who spent weeks under quarantine — first on a cruise ship in Japan and then at a conference centre in Cornwall, Ont. — are expected to be allowed out of isolation today.
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 the 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, nowhere more than its northwestern corner in Washington state, where officials are so concerned about having space to care for the sick they were expected to close a $4 million US deal Friday to take over a roadside motel.
To the south, on the Pacific coast, California National Guard paratroopers were hoisted down from a military helicopter to deliver virus test kits to the bow of the Grand Princess cruise ship.
The vessel, with 3,500 aboard, was ordered to stay at sea after a traveller from its previous voyage died of the coronavirus and at least four others were infected.
The cruise line said samples were collected from 45 passengers and crew members and results were expected later Friday.
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.
In New York, the mayor implored the federal government to send more test kits to his state, which saw its caseload double overnight to 22, all of them in or near the city.
WATCH: Experts raise questions about U.S. preparation for COVID-19
U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign an $8.3 billion US measure to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak. The legislation would 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.
The Senate passed the measure Thursday to help tackle the outbreak in hopes of reassuring a fearful public and accelerating the government’s response to the virus
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.”
In Japan, where the prime minister has urged local authorities to close schools, there was growing concern about both the number of cases and the impact it would have on the economy, including the country’s tourism sector.
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
Cases were increasing in Germany and France, but Italy remained the centre of Europe’s outbreak, particularly in its north. The country has had 148 fatalities, making it the deadliest site for the virus outside China.
The Italian government restricted visits to nursing homes and assisted living facilities to protect older people who have been more vulnerable to succumbing to COVID-19. But with schools closed nationwide, many grandparents were called to duty as last-minute babysitters anyway.
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.
The Vatican said it is working with Italian authorities to keep the coronavirus from spreading, with a suspension of Pope Francis’s weekly audiences seen as likely.
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 U.K. to succumb to the disease.
The person, who was not identified, is among the 115 people in the U.K. who have tested positive for the new virus.
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 novel 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. Semi-official news agencies in Iran posted images of long lines of traffic of people trying to reach the Caspian coast from Tehran on Friday despite authorities earlier telling people to remain in their cities.
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 Shiite 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.
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 the WHO have 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, noting that Africa is an area of particular concern.
Here’s a look at developments in countries and regions that have not yet seen large numbers of cases but remain an area of concern.
Cameroon’s health ministry on 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. Cameroon is the fourth sub-Saharan country to report coronavirus after Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa.
Egypt’s health ministry said it registered 12 people carrying the coronavirus on a Nile cruise ship heading to the southern city of Luxor from Aswan, state television reported on Friday. The country had until now diagnosed three people with the virus, one of whom it said had fully recovered after receiving treatment.
Brazil reported eight cases of the novel coronavirus as of Thursday, including the first instances of likely local transmission.
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 the WHO for its efforts to prevent the virus from spreading, warned on 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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