New Zealand and Nigeria on Friday reported their first cases of the novel coronavirus, as the epidemic entered Oceania and sub-Saharan Africa, AFP reported. More than 83,000 people have been infected globally.
China’s National Health Commission reported at 44 new coronavirus deaths on Thursday, bringing the nationwide toll to 2,788. The number of deaths on Thursday is the lowest figure in over a month. The commission also reported 327 new confirmed cases, among which 318 were reported from the hardest-hit Hubei province.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Health on Friday said that a man in his sixties, who recently returned from Iran, had contracted the virus, AP reported.
The ministry in a statement said it was confident the public health risk from the infection was being well managed. Health officials said the man tested positive on Friday afternoon. He is being treated at the Auckland City Hospital.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health also confirmed the country’s first case in Lagos state. Akin Abayomi – health commissioner for Lagos – said an Italian citizen who entered Nigeria on Tuesday from Milan tested positive the next day.
Abayomi told AP that the man was transferred to the Lagos State Biosecurity Facilities for isolation and testing. “The patient was clinically stable with no serious symptoms and was being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos,” he added. “We will use all the resources made available by the state and the federal government to respond to this case.”
Nigeria is one of 13 African countries that the World Health Organization had classified as high priority in this outbreak, because it gets many visitors from China.
Meanwhile, a pet dog has been quarantined at an animal centre in Hong Kong after it tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officials said on Friday. The dog did not have any symptoms but “nasal and oral cavity samples were tested weak positive for COVID-19 virus”, a spokesperson for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department told The Khaleej Times. The dog belongs to a 60-year-old woman infected with the virus.
Japan, South Korea
In South Korea, the hardest-hit country outside China, 256 fresh cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed on Friday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 2,022, according to the Koreas Centres for Disease Prevention and Control . However, the number of fatalities remained unchanged at 13.
Of the 256 new cases, 182 were reported from the country’s fourth-largest city, Daegu, and were traced to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the city. A 61-year-old woman who attended two services at the church before she tested positive for the virus is believed to be the source of the infection. South Korea’s culture minister on Friday asked groups to “refrain from religious services and gatherings for a while” in order to limit the further spread of the coronavirus.
In wake of the spreading epidemic, South Korean boy band BTS cancelled four concerts scheduled for April at the Olympic Stadium in Seoul. In a statement, the band’s label Big Hit Entertainment said the coronavirus “has made it impossible at this time to predict the scale of the outbreak during the dates of the concert in April.” Over 2,00,000 people were expected to attend the concerts.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday asked schools across the country to close until late March, a decision that impacted 12.8 million students. The country has already cancelled several sporting events and concerts.
Saudi Arabia suspends visas
Saudi Arabia on Thursday suspended visas for visits to Islam’s holiest sites for the “umrah” pilgrimage, after a spike in coronavirus infections across West Asia, PTI reported.
“The kingdom’s government has decided to take the following precautions: suspending entry to the kingdom for the purpose of umrah and visit to the Prophet’s mosque temporarily,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “Suspending entry into the kingdom with tourist visas for those coming from countries where the spread of the new coronavirus [COVID-19] is a danger.”
The kingdom has not recorded any cases of the virus so far, but said the ban was temporary and imposed as a precautionary measure.
The United Arab Emirates has reported 13 coronavirus cases, Kuwait has registered 43, Bahrain 33 and Oman has confirmed four cases.
However, the highest toll outside China has been recorded in Iran, where 26 people have died so far from the virus, AP reported. Iran Health Ministry Spokesperson Kianoush Jahanpour gave the new toll on Thursday at a press conference. The number of people diagnosed with the infection rose to 254 on Friday.
Several Indian students were reportedly stranded in Iran after India suspended all flights between the two countries on Friday, the Indian Express reported. There are roughly 250 Indian students across Iran, including in Tehran, Shiraz and Kish Island.