Coronavirus control measures stepped-up worldwide

Measures to try and control the spread of coronavirus have been stepped up in some of the worst-hit countries as the spread of the disease and the death toll continue to rise.

Clusters of the viral pneumonia continue to balloon outside mainland China.

The crisis pushed into areas seen as among the worst-equipped to deal with an outbreak as well as some of the world’s richest nations.

  • South Korea

On Tuesday the caseload in South Korea grew by 144, with a total of 977 people confirmed to have contracted the viru..

Officials want to check 200,000 members of a sect identified as a hotbed for spreading the virus.

In the city of Daegu, where the sect is based, anyone with cold-like symptoms - estimated to be around 30,000 people - will be tested for the virus.

"It's a matter of speed and time: We must create a clear turning point within this week," said President Moon Jae-in.

The country is also restricting exports to deal with a nationwide shortage of face masks.

Amid a push to limit public gatherings, South Korea's professional basketball league said it will ban spectators until the outbreak is under control, a day after football authorities postponed the start of the domestic season.

The city of Busan said the world team table tennis championships it planned to host in March were postponed to June.

Thermal cameras to detect people with fevers were installed at major buildings in Seoul, some of which are banning visitors who aren’t wearing masks.

Korean Air said one of its crew members tested positive, but the airline didn’t disclose the flights the employee had worked on.

  • China

China continues to bear the brunt of deaths and illnesses from the respiratory disease with at least 77,658 cases and 2,663 deaths - the majority of which have occurred in Wuhan, the city where the disease originated.

The city of Wuhan remains in lockdown.

In Beijing, China’s government postponed its most important political meetings of the year.

The National People’s Congress – due to run for two weeks in early March – and the meeting of its chief advisory body usually bring thousands of delegates to Beijing.

The decision indicated the importance President Xi Jinping places on the battle against the epidemic that has posed one of his biggest political challenges since he took control of the ruling Communist Party in 2012.

  • Iran

At least 50 deaths from the illness have been reported in Iran, prompting Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest for international travel, to limit flights to the country.

The country's head of counter-coronavirus task force tested positive for the virus, according to the Iran Health Ministry.

Schools were closed in Iran for a second day, and daily sanitising of public buses and the Tehran metro, which is used by some three million people a day, was started.

Shiite pilgrims wear masks outside the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, Iraq. Credit: AP

In several countries that reported their first cases on Monday – Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, the infected patients had links with Iran.

Iraq and Afghanistan closed their borders with Iran in an effort to stop the further spread while Bahrain announced a 48-hour suspension of flights to and from Dubai, the world’s busiest international airport.

The head of country's counter-coronavirus task force has tested positive for the virus himself. Authorities made the announcement on Tuesday, a day after Iraj Harirchi was seen mopping his brow and wiping his nose at a press conference announcing Iran's measures to minimise the danger posed by the outbreak.

  • Italy

In Italy, where at least 283 people have tested positive for the virus and seven have died, police manned checkpoints around a dozen quarantined northern towns as worries grew across the continent.

On Tuesday Italy reported its first confirmed cases in the south.

A woman on the island of Sicily tested positive having returned from holiday in northern Lombardo. Two cases were also reported in Tuscany, well south of the epicenter.

Two neighbors of Italy - Croatia and Austria - have reported their first cases of the virus. While French health minister Olivier Veran said the country would not shut its border or call off mass gatherings.

Schools were closed, theatre performances cancelled, and even the last two days of Venice Carnival celebrations were called off.

  • Streets in Italy are all but deserted as 12 towns were put in lockdown:

British travellers returning from northern Italy are being advised to self-isolate if they have flu-like symptoms.

A tourist hotel in the Canary Islands has been placed in quarantine after an Italian doctor staying there tested positive for coronavirus.

  • Japan

Japan has been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus, due to the docking and quarantine of the Diamond Princess cruise ship after cases of the virus were detected on board.

Almost one-fifth of the 3,711 passengers originally on board contracted the virus and four have died.

Health authorities wear protective suits as they prepare for the disembarkation of 400 Filipino crew members on board the Diamond Princess. Credit: AP

A culture of long working days in the country has been revised in the wake of the outbreak. The government is urging employers to allow workers to telecommute and have more flexible hours.

Other basic measures announced on Tuesday include urging people to wash their hands carefully, follow "cough etiquette" and avoid going out when feeling unwell.

Authorities are also urging people with mild illnesses to go to family doctors instead of hospitals with specialized virus-control facilities which are treating many seriously ill patients.

  • UK

Downing Street insisted on Monday the UK remains "prepared for all eventualities", a day after four new coronavirus cases were confirmed among the 32 Diamond Princess passengers who were flown back from a two-week quarantine.

The remaining 28 remain in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on The Wirral.

All those who were flown home had tested negative for the virus before boarding the flight.

There have been 13 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

Some British passengers opted to stay on board the ship and four Britons who tested positive for coronavirus are being treated in hospital in Japan, including David and Sally Abel who documented their isolation and have now been diagnosed with pneumonia.

A number of UK schools sent students home on Tuesday following the outbreak in Italy.

A school in Cheshire announced it would be closing for the rest of the week after a group of students returned from a ski trip in the virus-affected areas.

Sally and David Abel became ill after spending time in quarantine on the Diamond Princess. Credit: David Abel
  • Economic impact

The economic impact of the disease has also been felt across the world, with markets plummeting.

On Monday, more than £62 billion was wiped off the value of Britain’s top index, as global traders reacted with fear to the first major outbreak of coronavirus in Europe, in Italy.

The FTSE 100 lost 247.09 points to 7156.83, a 3.3% drop, its biggest one-day fall in more than four years.

While Wall Street too mirrored stock exchanges worldwide with a 1,000-plus point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Italian soldiers wearing sanitary masks patrol Duomo square in Milan. Credit: AP
  • Is coronavirus a pandemic?

After the large increase in cases of Covid-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – in several countries, the World Heath Organisation said the virus had the potential to cause a pandemic.

"The past few weeks has demonstrated just how quickly a new virus can spread around the world and cause widespread fear and disruption," WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

"(But) for the moment we're not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus."