While more and more people have been testing positive for the coronavirus in at least 95 countries, China reported 22 new deaths on Monday (March 9), the lowest number of fresh cases in a day since it started reporting the data in January.
There were 40 new cases nationwide, the National Health Commission said, with most of them in Hubei, the central province at the epicentre of the outbreak.
The 22 new deaths — which were all in Hubei except one — bring the country’s toll to 3,119. More than 80,700 people have been infected in total in mainland China.
The numbers in China have been declining in recent weeks as the country’s draconian measures appear to be working.
A senior government official hinted last week that China could soon lift the lockdown on the province imposed in late January, which has effectively restricted the movement of around 56 million people in Hubei.
However, there have now been 67 cases of imported infections brought into the country, the health commission said, with four new cases confirmed on Monday.
The rise in imported cases is raising fears that the country’s progress in bringing infections down could be undone, and several local authorities are imposing quarantines on those arriving from hard-hit areas.
Meanwhile, confirmed cases being reported from other countries are on the rise, with the number of coronavirus cases in the US soaring past 500 on Sunday, including two deaths.
Around 30 US states have been affected by the virus, with Oregon the latest to declare an emergency, and 60 million people in California and New York are under crisis measures.
The nationwide death toll stood at 21 as of Sunday.
A Johns Hopkins tally put the number of confirmed US cases at 554 by Sunday evening.
As the coronavirus hits more states, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said on Sunday his campaign is gauging when it may become necessary to cancel the large campaign rallies that public health experts say could be breeding grounds to spread the potentially deadly illness.
“Obviously what is most important to us is to protect the health of the American people,” Sanders said as he appeared in a series of TV interviews. “And what I will tell you, we are talking to public health officials all over this country. This is an issue that every organization, every candidate has got to deal with,” he said.
Meanwhile, medical officers headed for a virus-hit cruise ship stranded off San Francisco to begin screening passengers for an “unprecedented and difficult” landing operation. The Grand Princess, with 21 confirmed coronavirus infections among 3,500 people on board, is due to dock in Oakland on Monday.
The operation to move passengers ashore will take two to three days, said Governor Gavin Newsom.
A passenger on the ship said people without symptoms were allowed to leave their cabins for the first time since Thursday. Once ashore, ill passengers will be moved to hospitals, while Americans not requiring treatment will be quarantined at military bases in California, Texas and Georgia for 14 days.
Foreign passengers will be repatriated, while the crew will remain quarantined onboard.
Schools and colleges in the New York state have announced that they are suspending classes, as the number of coronavirus cases jumped to 106 and a state of emergency has been declared.
At the same time, three cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Iowa, Governor Kim Reynolds said. All three individuals recently took a cruise in Egypt before returning home to Johnson County in Iowa and are currently in isolation.
A quarter of the Italian population, which included at 15 million people, was locked down on Sunday (March 8) as the government took drastic steps to stop the spread of the deadly new coronavirus that is sweeping the globe, with Latin America recording its first fatality.
The country on Sunday recorded the second-highest coronavirus toll in the world after reporting a sharp jump in deaths — from 133 to 366 — and overtaking South Korea on infections.
Italy’s interior ministry said anyone flouting the lockdown risked at least three months in jail or a 206 euro ($233) fine. Only people with a “serious” reason that cannot be postponed, such as urgent work or family issues, will be allowed in or out of the quarantine zones, which cover Lombardy and 14 provinces in four other regions.
Meanwhile, amid increasing tensions across the globe, inmates in four Italian prisons protested against new rules introduced to contain the coronavirus outbreak, leaving one prisoner dead and others injured, a prison rights group said.
Prisoners at jails in Naples Poggioreale in the south, Modena in the north, Frosinone in central Italy and at Alexandria in the northwest had all revolted over measures including a ban on family visits.
Several embassies in North Korea closed on Monday as many diplomats were flown out following weeks of tight quarantine restrictions imposed by Pyongyang over the spread of the coronavirus.
North Korea has not confirmed a single infection but has imposed strict rules, including closing its borders and putting thousands of its own people into isolation.
It has also subjected hundreds of foreigners — including diplomats — to a virtual lockdown in their own premises.
Russian ambassador Alexander Matsegora described the conditions as “morally crushing”. Those restrictions were finally eased last week after more than a month when 200 foreigners were allowed to leave their compounds.
Bangladesh has decided to postpone the March 17 grand inaugural ceremony of the birth centenary celebrations of its founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, hours after three coronavirus cases were detected in the country.
The year-long celebrations were scheduled to open amid massive festivities at the National Parade Ground in Dhaka on March 17 and were expected to be attended by several foreign dignitaries, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, Modi will now not attend the ceremony, the sources said on Monday in New Delhi.
France has banned all gatherings of more than 1,000 people in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Health Minister Olivier Veran said, as the French death toll reached 19.
“All gatherings of more than 1,000 people are from now on banned,” he said on Sunday adding that officials would issue a list of events considered “useful to national life” that would be allowed to continue such as demonstrations.
(With inputs from agencies)