World must prepare for pandemic, WHO admits

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We have to focus on containment [de l’épidémie, NDLR], while doing everything we can to prepare for a possible pandemic, said its managing director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at a press conference in Geneva.

In Italy, where a dozen northern cities were quarantined over the weekend, the coronavirus has now killed 5 people and infected 219 others, according to the most recent report provided by the government on Monday.

Four victims were identified in Lombardy (north-west) and another in Veneto (north-east). It is in all cases of elderly people, often already suffering from other pathologies.

The Italian media also reports two other deaths linked to the coronavirus, but these have not yet been confirmed by the government.

Italy is now the country most affected by the virus in Europe, and the third in the world, after South Korea and China. The situation worries neighboring countries, including France, Austria and Slovenia.

Since the announcement of the first death on Friday, fears of a spread have led to the implementation of measures that will inevitably harm the economy of the peninsula, the eighth in the world in terms of gross domestic product. The Milan stock market also plunged 5.4% on Monday, and the other European stock markets also suffered heavy losses.

In Lombardy, schools, universities, museums, cinemas and theaters were closed, as was the Milan Scala and the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, two of the city’s emblematic monuments. Bars must also close from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., dropping the aperitif tradition.

Milan’s 1.3 million metro was half empty on Monday morning and supermarkets were emptied by citizens fearful of shortages, forcing Mayor Beppe Sala to appeal to reason .

Rather than running into supermarkets grabbing food, care should be taken for the weakest, especially the elderly, who are most at risk.

Beppe Sala, Mayor of Milan

In Liguria (north-west), the celebration of masses was interrupted. Only funerals and weddings remain scheduled, as long as they only bring together small groups.

In Veneto, the authorities decided to end the celebrations of the famous carnival on Sunday evening, two days earlier than planned. Schools and museums have been closed, but bars and restaurants remain open.

Four Serie A soccer games were canceled this weekend, and all school trips were also suspended inside and outside the peninsula.

An individual wears a blue mask over his eyes and you can clearly see his protective mask.

A reveler wears a protective mask at the Venice Carnival, the last two days of which, as well as the Sunday evening festivities, have been canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Photo: Reuters / Manuel Silvestri

Italian tourists stuck in France and Mauritius

All this fighting has an impact on Italian tourists, whose plans are suddenly upset.

In Mauritius, sixty Italian passengers from Lombardy and Veneto were banned from disembarking from an Alitalia plane from Rome on Monday. The approximately 240 other passengers were, however, cleared to alight.

In Lyon, a bus from Milan was blocked for hours with all its passengers on board at Perrache bus station, due to suspected cases of coronavirus on board. The passengers were finally released.

Despite the surge in cases, the European Commission said on Monday that it did not want immediate re-establishment of border controls within the European Union.

At present, our recommendation to the Member States does not include the reintroduction of internal border controlssaid Adalbert Jahnz, a spokesperson, during a daily press briefing.

The Schengen Borders Code authorizes the temporary reinstatement of controls, but any decision should be made under certain conditions, warned for his part the European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic.

So, such a decision must be based on credible risk assessment and scientific evidence, to be proportionate and taken in coordination with others, he explained.

No country has yet notified the Commission that it has taken such a decision because of the new coronavirus, according to the European Commission.

France however recommended on Monday to people returning from Lombardy and Veneto to avoid any exit not essential. Children returning from these regions should not be sent to nursery, school, college or high school, according to these recommendations.

The situation in Iran worries its neighbors

Less than a week after the detection of the new coronavirus, the Iranian Ministry of Health on Monday reported four new deaths, bringing the number of victims of the epidemic in the country to 12. Officially, 61 people have been infected.

After the province of Qom, where 34 cases of contamination are listed, follow those of Tehran (13 cases), Gilan (north, 6 cases), Markazi (center, 4 cases), Isfahan (center, 2 cases), and the provinces de Hamedan (west) and Mazandaran (north), with one case each, according to the ministry.

Iran is already the country with the highest number of deaths outside of China, but an Iranian MP, Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, accused the authorities on Monday of hiding the reality.

After an in camera parliamentary session on the virus, this ultra-conservative MP accused the government of don’t tell the truth on the scale of the epidemic, according to the semi-official agency Isna.

Clients wearing a mask are at the counter of a pharmacy.

Iranian women wearing masks shop in a Tehran pharmacy.

Photo: Getty Images / AFP / ATTA KENARE

For its part, the news agency Ilna, close to the reformers, reports that the deputy Faramani spoke of 50 dead only in Qom.

The rest of the media has not released this figure, but we prefer not to censor the coronavirus, because people’s lives are in danger.

Fatemeh Madiani, editor-in-chief of the Ilna agency

During a press conference broadcast on television, the Deputy Minister of Health, Iraj Harirtchi, categorically denied the claim, while government spokesman Ali Rabii said the latter is transparent.

Iranians’ confidence in their government has already been shaken this year, due to lies before admission that a Ukrainian flight was shot down by an Iranian missile near Tehran in early January.

A WHO delegation is scheduled to arrive in Iran on Tuesday.

Oman and Iraq report first cases linked to Iran

The Sultanate of Oman and Iraq both announced the first cases of coronavirus on Monday, which they believe are attributable to the situation in the Islamic Republic.

According to Oman state television, the health ministry claimed that two women contracted COVID-19 during a visit to Iran. They would be in a stable state.

In Iraq, a country with a dilapidated health system, the first case of contamination is attributed to an Iranian religious student who came to the holy Shiite city of Najaf.

Twenty years old, according to a medical source, he arrived in Iraq before the country banned travel to and from Iran on Saturday.

Several demonstrators wearing masks walk on a street.

Fear of the coronavirus does not prevent Iraqis from demonstrating against their government, including in Najaf, where the first case of the disease in the country was reported on Monday.

Photo: Reuters / Alaa Al-Marjani

As soon as this announcement was made, the education department of Najaf province announced suspend the first semester exams until further notice in all of its schools and universities.

The governor of Salaheddine, north of Baghdad, where a Shiite pilgrimage will take place on Tuesday, announced that he would ban foreign pilgrims from entering his province, for fear of contagion.

Concerned about the deaths in Iran and the announcement of the first contamination in another neighboring country, Kuwait, Iraq has closed its eastern border with the two countries. Armenia, Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan and Afghanistan and Oman have closed their borders or restricted trade with Iran.

Elsewhere in the Middle East and Central Asia, Afghanistan, Bahrain, and Kuwait also reported first cases of coronavirus contamination on Monday.

Air Canada confirmed on Sunday that a passenger on one of its flights from Montreal to Vancouver on February 14 was declared positive for COVID-19. She also came from Iran.

A man wearing a mask takes a self-portrait in a mirror.

A man wearing a mask takes a selfie in a mirror in Seoul, South Korea, February 24, 2020.

Photo: Reuters / Heo Ran

231 new cases in South Korea

South Korea is the country with the highest number of cases of coronavirus contamination outside of China.

With a daily record of 231 new cases of contamination in the space of 24 hours, the country now has more than 800 infected patients, including 7 fatally, more than Japan where the liner Diamond Princess was until now the first focus contamination outside of China.

Faced with the rate of contagion, South Korean President Moon Jae-in proclaimed a state of maximum alert on Sunday.

In the southeast, Daegu, a city of 2.5 million people where a large number of cases have been reported, took on the appearance of a dead city on Monday. Only a handful of travelers, their faces covered with a mask, entered or left the station of the country’s fourth city.

More than half of the cases announced in South Korea concern members of a sect of Christian inspiration. Eighteen of them were returning from a pilgrimage to Israel, where two cases have been reported and further entry bans have been taken.

Workers wear masks.

Employees of a factory in Shanghai, China, wear masks on February 24, 2020.

Photo: Reuters / Aly Song

No lull in China

In China itself, where the coronavirus appeared in a market in Wuhan in December, the epidemic has left another 150 dead in the past 24 hours.

While the authorities have been more optimistic over the last few days about the evolution of the disease, this figure constitutes a marked increase in the number of deaths compared to the figure announced the day before (97). In total, nearly 2,600 people died from COVID-19 in China.

The number of new cases of contamination, however, fell to 409 against 648 announced Sunday.

As a sign of the gravity of the situation, the communist regime decided to postpone the annual session of the Parliament, which was to open on March 5. It is a first in three decades.

In Wuhan, the city hall renounced the measures to lighten quarantine which it had announced a few hours earlier.

Cut off from the world for exactly a month, the city of 11 million inhabitants announced Monday morning that non-residents would be able to leave the city in the center of the country if they did not show symptoms of the disease and had never been in contact with carriers of the virus.

A few hours later, the town hall said that this decision was invalidated and that sanctions were taken against those who made the announcement without authorization.

Wuhan implements the spirit of the important instructions of the [président] Xi Jinping concerning the fight against the spread of the virus, assured the town hall.

A team of WHO experts visited Wuhan over the weekend, the Ministry of Health reported. This is the first announced visit of international experts to the site since the start of the epidemic. According to the ministry, they inspected two hospitals as well as a makeshift hospital installed in a sports center.

The Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Kristalina Georgieva said at a G20 ministerial meeting in Saudi Arabia that the crisis could jeopardize recovery World. The IMF has already lowered its growth forecast for China in 2020 by 0.4 points to 5.6%. With China being the second largest economy in the world, this decline should cost 0.1 points of growth to global GDP.

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