(Reuters) - The rapid spread of the coronavirus increased fears of a pandemic on Friday, with eight countries reporting their first cases and the World Health Organization (WHO) raising its global spread and impact risk alert to “very high”.
** Four more people have died in Italy from coronavirus, the civil protection agency said on Friday, bringing the total to 21, while the number of those testing positive for the illness jumped to 889 from 650 the day before.
** In Europe, Germany warned of an impending epidemic and Greece, a gateway for refugees from the Middle East, announced tighter border controls. Germany has nearly 60 cases, France about 57 and Spain 32, according to a Reuters count.
** A man who had been aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship has become the first British national to die from the coronavirus.
** Iran announced on Friday the closure of all schools for three days from Saturday as its death toll rose to 34 with 388 people infected.
** South Korea reported its largest daily increase yet as the total number of infections rose by 594 to 2,931 on Saturday. The death toll stood at 17, up four from a day earlier.
** The South Korean government urged citizens on Saturday to stay indoors as it warned of a “critical moment” in its battle on the coronavirus.
** Mainland China - where the virus originated late last year - reported four new cases on Saturday, the lowest since authorities started compiling such data in January.
** Two new cases of infections of unknown origins were confirmed in the United States, in California and Oregon.
** The U.S. State Department said Americans should reconsider travel to Italy due to the coronavirus outbreak there.
** The coronavirus outbreak is “getting bigger”, the World Health Organization said on Friday after Nigeria confirmed sub-Saharan Africa’s first case.
** Lithuania, Belarus, Azerbaijan and New Zealand reported their first cases on Friday. Romania confirmed two more cases following its first on Wednesday and Israel reported its second infection.
** Three cases in Mexico bring Latin America’s cases to four after Brazil reported its first case two days ago, with others suspected.
** Factory activity in China contracted at the fastest pace ever in February, highlighting the damage from the coronavirus outbreak on the world’s second-largest economy.
** Japan’s government plans to create a fund to help companies pay subsidies to workers who need to take days off to look after their children while schools are closed, the Nikkei business daily reported on Saturday.
** The virus has caused nearly 80,000 infections and 2,835 deaths, according official Chinese figures. It has spread to another 46 countries, where about 3,700 cases and 57 deaths have been reported, according to the World Health Organization.
** Recovered patients who were discharged from hospital but later tested positive again have been found not to be infectious, an official at China’s National Health Commission said on Friday.
** At a rally in South Carolina on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump defended his administration’s response to the outbreak and accused Democrats of politicizing the disease, saying: “This is their new hoax”.
** Russia on Friday temporarily barred Iranians from entering the country and said it would also restrict the entry of South Koreans from March 1 as a precaution.
** Vietnam plans to suspend visa-free travel for South Koreans starting on Saturday.
** Switzerland joined countries banning big events, forcing cancellations of next week’s Geneva international car show and all of the weekend’s football matches in the Swiss league.
** Tokyo Disneyland and Osaka-based theme park Universal Studios Japan will be closed from Saturday to March 15, while Tokyo Olympics organizers will make a call next week on how they plan to hold the ceremonial torch relay.
** United Airlines Holdings Inc said it was sharply cutting flights to Japan and South Korea due to slumping demand.
** Coronavirus panic sent world share markets skidding again on Friday, compounding their worst crash since the 2008 global financial crisis and pushing the week’s wipeout in value terms to $5 trillion. [MKTS/GLOB]
Compiled by Stephen Coates