Coronavirus pandemic reaches world leaders and disrupts global sporting events
The coronavirus has reached the highest levels of government and the sporting world, with Canada’s prime minister isolating himself when his wife tested positive, the Arsenal manager and a Chelsea player being diagnosed and the Australian Grand Prix cancelled just hours before the event was due to start.
The death toll in China from the novel coronavirus outbreak has risen to 3,179, the country's National Health Commission said on March 13.
The agency said seven more people died in the last 24 hours while eight new cases were detected by authorities, bringing the total number of confirmed cases close to 80,813.
Six of the deaths occurred at the epicenter of the outbreak, Hubei province, and one in Shandong province.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's wife has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
"Following medical recommendations, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau was tested for COVID-19. The test came back positive," Trudeau's office said on March 13.
She currently remains in isolation.
Trudeau is in good health with no symptoms, according to the statement.
"As a precautionary measure and following the advice of doctors, he will be in isolation for a planned period of 14 days," it added.
The prime minister will not get tested, and doctors say there is no risk to those who have been in contact with him recently.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau went into isolation while his wife was awaiting the results of the coronavirus test.
Sophie returned on March 12 from a speaking event in the U.K. and began to exhibit mild flu-like symptoms.
Trudeau is not the only Canadian political leader to go into isolation.
New Democrat Party leader Jagmeet Singh also said he is self-isolating after experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Australia's Home Minister Peter Dutton said on March 13 that he tested positive for coronavirus.
In a tweet, Dutton said that he woke up to a sore throat with temperature.
"I immediately contacted Queensland Department of Health and was subsequently tested for COVID-19. I was advised by Queensland Health this afternoon that the test had returned positive," Dutton wrote.
He joined just over 200 cases of coronavirus across Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison today announced a ban on mass gatherings in the country to stem the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, F1 team McLaren Racing announced that it withdrew from the Australian Grand Prix of 2020 Formula 1 after a team member was tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The member contracted COVID-19 was self-isolated immediately after showing symptoms and will be treated by local healthcare authorities, said the team.
The Australian Grand Prix has been called off after teams and drivers forced the hand of Formula 1's bosses.
A decision to cancel the race was made in the early hours of Friday morning after a McLaren team member tested positive for the coronavirus in Melbourne.
The race's abandonment was not made official for another eight hours.
The British government issued new health advice to the elderly and children on March 12 as the country's coronavirus plan transitions from "contain" to "delay" and the social and economic impact increases.
A total of 590 cases have been confirmed so far in the U.K., with 10 deaths within the country.
After calling an emergency government meeting, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference with Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.
Vallance noted the true number of infections in the country was most likely between 5,000 and 10,000.
Johnson said: "We have all got to be clear, this is the worst public health crisis for a generation. Some people compare it to seasonal flu. Alas, that is not right. Due to the lack of immunity this disease is more dangerous.
"It is going to spread further and I must level with you, I must level with the British public: many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time."
He predicted that the government would have to take further precautions in "the next few weeks," including the possibility that if coronavirus symptoms emerged in a member of a household "we will be asking everyone in that household to stay at home."
"I want to signal now that this is coming down the track," said Johnson.
The government said the mildly ill should self-isolate, discouraging the elderly from going on cruises, and schools from taking students on school trips abroad.
However, Johnson ruled out at the current time school closures or banning large gatherings.
He said major events could be canceled in the near future to lessen the burden on the public health service.
Scotland banned gatherings of more than 500 people and Ireland closed down schools, though the national U.K. government has yet to follow suit.
Britain's Electoral Commission also recommended on March 12 postponing local elections due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The opposition Labour Party, which is currently undergoing a leadership election, canceled a special conference scheduled for April 4, when they would announce the winner. Instead, they will hold a "scaled-back event.
Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea player Callum Hudson-Odoi have both tested positive for coronavirus just hours after the Premier League announced this weekend's fixtures will still go ahead.
Arteta, 37, became the first confirmed member of staff of a Premier League team to contract the disease, which was officially labelled a pandemic by the World Health Organisation on March 11.
News of Arteta's diagnosis came less than an hour after the Premier League announced that this weekend's fixtures would still be played as planned.
He, and the entire first-team squad and coaching staff, will now be self-isolating in accordance with the most recent government guidelines.
Chelsea also announced Hudson-Odoi, 19, had tested positive with COVID-19 at around midnight and said the training facility in Cobham, Surrey, will be partially closed.
Chelsea staff who had recent close contact with the winger will also self-isolate, the club said in a statement.
Spanish Real Madrid's basketball player Trey Thompkins confirmed that he tested positive for the coronavirus on March 12.
"Thank you to EVERYONE who has sent love and/or checked up on me. I'm feeling great and just waiting for the virus to pass at this point. Really means a lot," the U.S. player posted on Twitter.
Real Madrid previously announced that their first teams of both football and basketball player are in quarantine "given that the two squads share the facilities at Real Madrid City."
It recommended all Real Madrid staff who work at Real Madrid City to remain in quarantine.
Meanwhile, the Spanish club said the EuroLeague basketball matches and the La Liga football fixture of Real Madrid scheduled for March 12 and March 13 will not be played.
In Spain, the virus, also known as COVID-19, has claimed nearly 50 lives with over 2,000 people being tested positive.
Despite stricter measures enforced by the government, the death toll from the novel coronavirus outbreak in Italy continues to rise, reaching 1,016 on March 12 -- a jump of 23 percent over a period of 24 hours.
According to the latest figures provided by the Italian Civil Protection Department, the total number of cases in the country has risen to 12,839, the highest anywhere in the world after China, where the virus emerged last December.
On Wednesday, the Italian government warned citizens that new containment measures -- including a stricter lockdown of shops, bars, and other commercial activities -- will take at least a couple of weeks to slow down the spread of the virus.
Fears over the COVID-19 outbreak are also taking a toll Italy's financial markets as its main index, FTSE MIB, closed almost 17% down on March 12, its worst loss on record.
Italy's stigma as the hotbed of the virus in Europe is also having a major impact on airport traffic.
Operational activities at the two airports in Rome -- Fiumicino and Ciampino -- were reduced on March 12, following a high number of cancellations due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The company that handles both airports announced that starting March 17, Fiumicino will close its Terminal 1, while all check-in and luggage claim operations will be handled at Terminal 3.
The Ciampino airport, which is mainly used by low cost companies, will completely shut down its passenger terminals from March 14.
Despite Italy's strict travel restrictions to contain the spread of the virus, flights in and out of main Italian airports have seen a steep decline and check-in areas have been almost deserted in recent days.
The death toll in France from the country's novel coronavirus outbreak rose to 61, the Health Ministry said March 12.
The number of confirmed cases of the virus has also risen to 2,876 from 2,281, the ministry said in a statement.
President Emmanuel Macron announced new measures against the coronavirus outbreak in a televised address to the nation.
Macron said nurseries, schools, colleges, high schools and universities will be closed as of March 16 for an undetermined amount of time.
Describing the coronavirus outbreak as the “biggest health crisis that France has known in a century,” he also warned people to limit travel and to work from home as much as possible.
He stressed that municipal elections set for this weekend will be held.
France is the second-most affected country in Europe after Italy, which is currently under a lockdown announced by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday. The death toll in Italy from the coronavirus is over 1,015.
The French government has banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people to guard against the virus.
The European Commission orders employees to work from home next week, it announced March 12 among a series of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The Commission had already encouraged staff to choose telework solutions because of the outbreak of the virus.
There will be exceptions for officials in critical positions who are required to go into the office but work in shifts.
The so-called European schools teaching staffers' children will also be closed beginning Monday.
Officials are asked to reschedule meetings with colleagues coming from overseas, or have conference calls.
Only absolutely necessary foreign trios will be allowed.
The move follows the European Parliament announcement of preventive measures Wednesday for the next four weeks. Staffers are asked to work from home next week and only the most important meetings will be held.
The next plenary will be organized in Brussels and reduced to two days, instead of an official four-day session in Strasbourg.
Belgian universities will be closed for six weeks beginning March 13 as at least 399 people there were diagnosed with the virus.
Russia temporarily banned border crossing for Italians and foreigners arriving from Italy in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Moscow announced March 12.
"In order to ensure state security, protect public health and non-proliferation of the new coronavirus infection on the territory of the Russia from 00:00 Moscow time on March 13 temporarily suspends border crossing for citizens of the Italy entering the territory of the Russia for training and employment, as well as for private, tourist and transit purposes," it said.
The restrictions do not apply to the citizens of the Eurasian Economic Union, plane crews, members of official delegations and those with a residence permit in Russia.
The government instructed the Federal Air Transport Agency, Rosaviation, to notify airline companies about the restrictions within 24 hours.
It also suspended visa applications and visa deliveries for Italians.
Six new cases of the virus known as COVID-19 were reported March 12 in Russia. Four in Moscow and two in other regions. All the new cases had recently visited countries with a high number of diagnosed cases.
Russia has 34 confirmed cases -- 31 Russians, 2 Chinese and 1 Italian were found infected.
Belgium, Portugal, Luxembourg
Belgium, Portugal and Luxembourg announced March 12 that schools will be closed as a precaution against the novel coronavirus.
Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes told a press conference that the country's schools will be closed as of March 13 night until April 3.
Wilmes said all cultural and sports activities have been cancelled and only markets and pharmacies will remain open in the country.
Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a press conference that all schools and universities will be closed until April 9.
Meanwhile, Luxembourg's Health Minister Paulette Lenert announced that all schools in the country will be closed as of March 16 until March 27.
Lenert added that the country has confirmed 26 coronavirus cases.
Iranian authorities failed to effectively implement quarantine measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, an Iranian virologist said March 12.
Officials should have taken strict measures before the virus known as COVID-19 spread across the country, Hossein Keyvani, a professor at Iran University of Medical Sciences Virology Department in Tehran, told Anadolu Agency.
“The government failed to quarantine and disinfect all cities before it was too late,” Keyvani said. “We must comply with the health rules to protect from the disease.”
Underlining that nearly 1,000 people are tested for the virus every day at his hospital, Keyvani said health officials do not exactly know how many people have been infected because Iran does not have the capacity to test millions of people.
The U.S.'s unilateral sanctions on Iran do not directly affect the fight against the virus because sanctions have no impact on diagnosis and treatment processes.
Iran is one of the worst-hit countries from the virus with the death toll continuing to climb.
The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in Iran rose to 429, the state TV reported on March 12.
Authorities said 75 people died in the last 24 hours, with confirmed cases rising to more than 10,000, state TV quoted Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour.
Brazilian president's press secretary, who was reported to have tested positive for coronavirus on March 12, attended a dinner with U.S. President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend.
Fabio Wajngarten was part of Jair Bolsonaro's entourage during a trip to Florida earlier this week, where he was photographed standing with Trump and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. In the photo he is seen wearing a “Make Brazil Great Again” hat.
According to Brazilian media, some members of the Brazilian delegation had flu-like symptoms upon returning home and were consequently tested for the virus.
“In spite of the fact that the rotten media has already talked nonsense about my religion, my family and my company, they now talk about my health. But I'm fine,” he tweeted on March 11.
Trump said he was aware of the aide's diagnosis during remarks in the Oval Office on March 12.
"We did nothing very unusual, we sat next to each other for a period of time," he said, referring to Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro, who had dismissed the alarm around the virus on Wednesday, has been tested for coronavirus and is under medical observation, Brazilian media reports.
Azerbaijan confirmed its first death from the coronavirus on March 12.
The country's operational headquarters on coronavirus said the victim was a 51-year-old woman who had recently returned from Iran.
She sought medical attention in the capital Baku after developing symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
She tested positive for the disease and was admitted for treatment, but passed away in the capital on March 12.
Azerbaijan has reported a total of nine cases until now.
Turkish Cyprus (TRNC) announced on March 12 that a second person in the country tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The country's Health Ministry said that the husband of a tourist who tested positive for the virus was also diagnosed with COVID-19.
"The condition of the female tourist who has been staying at Lefkoşa Dr. Burhan Nalbantoğlu Hospital for the last four days is stable," the ministry said in a written statement.
It added that the patient's husband, who had previously tested negative, was found to have contracted the virus after suffering from a high fever.
"Thus, the number of people tested positive for the coronavirus increased to two," the ministry said.
It noted that there were no other citizens under quarantine except the two.
On Tuesday, Health Minister Ali Pilli announced the country's first case of the novel coronavirus. A 65-year-old tourist from Germany had tested positive for the virus.
The Turkish Cyprus had already announced that schools would be closed until March 15 as a precautionary measure.
The news followed Monday's announcement that two cases of the virus have been detected in the Greek Cypriot administration, the first to be confirmed on the divided island.
The coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, was first detected in Wuhan, China last December and has spread to at least 114 countries.
The global death toll is now over 4,900, with more than 134,000 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which has declared the outbreak "a pandemic."