Italian bus driver with cough sparks coronavirus panic in France

An unwell coach driver sparked a coronavirus panic at a French bus station today after arriving with virus symptoms from Italy, where six people have now died in Europe’s first major outbreak. 

French police impounded the FlixBus coach in Lyon today after it arrived from Milan with the driver reportedly suffering a bad cough.

After a two-hour lockdown on the bus, passengers were hauled off the coach and taken into quarantine in the bus station, while the driver was hurried to hospital to be screened for the deadly virus.   

The growing alarm has already prompted questions over whether European countries will have to shut their borders – although the EU said today it was not planning to restrict travel in the Schengen area ‘for the moment’.  

The scare in Lyon came shortly after an Italian passenger jet was held in Mauritius over virus fears, with dozens of passengers from Lombardy and Veneto – the worst-affected regions – told to return home or face quarantine.   

Forty of the 224 people on board eventually chose to return home to northern Italy where 50,000 people have been placed under lockdown, schools shut and public events banned in a drastic bid to contain the virus.   

Three more deaths were confirmed in Lombardy today after three men aged 80, 84 and 88 died from the virus, bringing Italy’s death toll to six. At least one was already in hospital while another had recently suffered a heart attack.  

Reports that another woman had died at a Brescia hospital have been denied by Lombardy health authorities. 

The head of the World Health Organisation today warned of a ‘potential pandemic’ with more than 79,000 people now infected around the world and the death toll above 2,600.  

One British Airways flight to Milan was delayed this morning after a passenger left the plane shortly before take-off at Heathrow, allegedly because they feared they would catch the virus. 

BA said it was ‘reviewing the situation’ today, with many Britons returning to school or work after half-term holidays abroad, but the UK government insisted that ‘the threat to the British public is currently low’.  

One man who returned to the UK from Codogno – one of the towns in lockdown – said he called the NHS today but was told to ‘continue as usual’. 

Diego Gullo has placed himself in a voluntary quarantine and voiced doubts about the UK’s response after the NHS suggested his wife and children should go to a walk-in centre.   

Italy has confirmed 229 cases of the virus, by far the largest number outside China, Japan and South Korea.    

People wearing protective face masks are led away from a bus at Lyon Perrache bus station in France today, after the coach arrived from Italy with the driver reportedly suffering from a cough

People wearing protective face masks are led away from a bus at Lyon Perrache bus station in France today, after the coach arrived from Italy with the driver reportedly suffering from a cough

People wearing protective face masks are led away from a bus at Lyon Perrache bus station in France today, after the coach arrived from Italy with the driver reportedly suffering from a cough

The FlixBus coach (pictured) was impounded in Lyon today after it arrived from Italy where six deaths from the coronavirus outbreak have now been confirmed

The FlixBus coach (pictured) was impounded in Lyon today after it arrived from Italy where six deaths from the coronavirus outbreak have now been confirmed

The FlixBus coach (pictured) was impounded in Lyon today after it arrived from Italy where six deaths from the coronavirus outbreak have now been confirmed

Passengers wearing masks hold their luggage at Lyon Perrache bus station today after fears of a virus case on board the bus

Passengers wearing masks hold their luggage at Lyon Perrache bus station today after fears of a virus case on board the bus

Passengers wearing masks hold their luggage at Lyon Perrache bus station today after fears of a virus case on board the bus

A police officer stands guard at the train and bus station Lyon Perrache after authorities marked out a security zone

A police officer stands guard at the train and bus station Lyon Perrache after authorities marked out a security zone

A police officer stands guard at the train and bus station Lyon Perrache after authorities marked out a security zone

An Italian soldier with a gun stands guard today outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan, which has been shut to tourists over coronavirus fears - as Italy confirmed its sixth death from the virus today

An Italian soldier with a gun stands guard today outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan, which has been shut to tourists over coronavirus fears - as Italy confirmed its sixth death from the virus today

An Italian soldier with a gun stands guard today outside the Duomo cathedral in Milan, which has been shut to tourists over coronavirus fears – as Italy confirmed its sixth death from the virus today 

Masked Italian soldiers stand outside the Duomo cathedral amid a growing outbreak with more than 160 cases confirmed

Masked Italian soldiers stand outside the Duomo cathedral amid a growing outbreak with more than 160 cases confirmed

Masked Italian soldiers stand outside the Duomo cathedral amid a growing outbreak with more than 160 cases confirmed

Italian armed personnel talk to drivers near the small town of Casalpusterlengo where one of the virus patients died

Italian armed personnel talk to drivers near the small town of Casalpusterlengo where one of the virus patients died

Italian armed personnel talk to drivers near the small town of Casalpusterlengo where one of the virus patients died 

Empty shelves at Esselunga supermarket in Milan today as people stockpile due to the fear of the new coronavirus

Empty shelves at Esselunga supermarket in Milan today as people stockpile due to the fear of the new coronavirus

Empty shelves at Esselunga supermarket in Milan today as people stockpile due to the fear of the new coronavirus

A researcher works in the laboratory of Clinical Microbiology, Virology and Emergency Diagnostics at the Luigi Sacco hospital in Milan today

A researcher works in the laboratory of Clinical Microbiology, Virology and Emergency Diagnostics at the Luigi Sacco hospital in Milan today

A researcher works in the laboratory of Clinical Microbiology, Virology and Emergency Diagnostics at the Luigi Sacco hospital in Milan today 

Tourists wearing face masks walk across St Mark's Square in Venice today, with the city's carnival derailed by the outbreak

Tourists wearing face masks walk across St Mark's Square in Venice today, with the city's carnival derailed by the outbreak

Tourists wearing face masks walk across St Mark’s Square in Venice today, with the city’s carnival derailed by the outbreak 

These three people were wearing protective suits on the Milan metro today, although it was unclear whether they were wearing the outfits as a joke

These three people were wearing protective suits on the Milan metro today, although it was unclear whether they were wearing the outfits as a joke

Tourists wearing masks look at a map of Florence

Tourists wearing masks look at a map of Florence

These three people were wearing protective suits on the Milan metro today (left), although it was unclear whether they were wearing the outfits as a joke. Pictured right: Tourists wearing masks look at a map of Florence

Passengers arriving at Rome's Fiumicino Airport walk through the terminal with face masks today

Passengers arriving at Rome's Fiumicino Airport walk through the terminal with face masks today

Passengers arriving at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport walk through the terminal with face masks today 

A health worker sprays disinfectant over a wall by a Venetian canal today

A health worker sprays disinfectant over a wall by a Venetian canal today

A worker in Venice works with a broom

A worker in Venice works with a broom

Venice was being disinfected by health workers with brooms and spray equipment by the side of the city’s canals today 

Empty seats on board a rush-hour train in Milan today as authorities battle to contain the first major outbreak in Europe

Empty seats on board a rush-hour train in Milan today as authorities battle to contain the first major outbreak in Europe

Empty seats on board a rush-hour train in Milan today as authorities battle to contain the first major outbreak in Europe 

ITALY - AUSTRIA BORDER: A train stopped by authorities stands on the tracks at the train station on the Italian side of the Brenner Pass on Sunday with 300 passengers on board after two complained of flu-like symptoms. The train was later given the all clear

ITALY - AUSTRIA BORDER: A train stopped by authorities stands on the tracks at the train station on the Italian side of the Brenner Pass on Sunday with 300 passengers on board after two complained of flu-like symptoms. The train was later given the all clear

ITALY – AUSTRIA BORDER: A train stopped by authorities stands on the tracks at the train station on the Italian side of the Brenner Pass on Sunday with 300 passengers on board after two complained of flu-like symptoms. The train was later given the all clear

Italy has confirmed six deaths (their locations are shown on a map above) with the region of Lombardy (marked in red) the worst-affected area of the country

Italy has confirmed six deaths (their locations are shown on a map above) with the region of Lombardy (marked in red) the worst-affected area of the country

Italy has confirmed six deaths (their locations are shown on a map above) with the region of Lombardy (marked in red) the worst-affected area of the country 

ITALY: A policeman wearing a sanitary masks gestures next to a reveller in Venice as authorities called off the annual carnival

ITALY: A policeman wearing a sanitary masks gestures next to a reveller in Venice as authorities called off the annual carnival

ITALY: A policeman wearing a sanitary masks gestures next to a reveller in Venice as authorities called off the annual carnival

WHO chief says world is facing ‘potential pandemic’ 

The chief of the World Health Organization today warned the planet must prepare in case the coronavirus crisis becomes a pandemic. 

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus admitted the sudden spike of COVID-19 cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea in the past 24 hours is ‘deeply concerning’.

‘We must focus on containing while doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic,’ he said. 

Dr Tedros Adhanom admitted the sudden spike of COVID-19 cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea in the past 24 hours is 'deeply concerning'

Dr Tedros Adhanom admitted the sudden spike of COVID-19 cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea in the past 24 hours is 'deeply concerning'

Dr Tedros Adhanom admitted the sudden spike of COVID-19 cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea in the past 24 hours is ‘deeply concerning’

The WHO had earlier maintained that the outbreak would not officially be declared a pandemic.

The body, headquartered in Geneva in Switzerland, argues a pathogen must spread easily between humans across the world before it is called a pandemic.  

The WHO said the current crisis is a cluster of cases in 36 countries and territories, which can be traced back to Asia.

Instead, the UN-body said the crisis has already been a public health emergency of international concern – the highest warning level – for a month. 

Nonetheless, fears of a pandemic have mounted with experts warning that the world is reaching a coronavirus ‘tipping point’ with nearly 80,000 confirmed cases and 2,600 deaths. 

At the Lyon bus station, French health officials said they were ‘evaluating the situation’ of the passengers barricaded there, who had come from Milan and stopped in Turin and Grenoble. 

One couple said they were kept on board the bus for more than two hours before being issued with face masks and allowed to disembark after they were checked by doctors. 

The couple were told they would be contacted again if the driver, who was taken to hospital for tests, turned out to be carrying the virus. 

‘A bus is undergoing an inspection. Our teams are at the scene and an assessment is underway,’ a spokeswoman for the regional health agency said. 

Police put up a security cordon around the bus and moved the passengers into an area of the Lyon Perrache bus station where they would not come into contact with other travellers.

The driver was taken to hospital, security sources said, while the LyonMag news site reported that the driver was an Italian who was taken to hospital for tests because he had a bad cough. 

In a sign of the nervousness triggered by the global spread of the virus, a Paris police station was closed to the public for several hours Monday after a Chinese woman became unwell on the premises. 

In the separate scare in Mauritius, the 224 passengers and crew on an Alitalia flight from Rome were held up at the airport after arriving in the Indian Ocean country today. 

The people on board the plane were allowed to disembark the aircraft over more than an hour after their landing and faced rigorous screening, Mauritian media reported. 

Passengers from Lombardy and Veneto were told they would have to go into quarantine if they stayed in Mauritius, Italian media said. 

The stand-off ended when 40 people from the two northern regions decided to return home to Italy, the airline said in a statement. The others were allowed into Mauritius. 

A flight was being organised back to Italy ‘although nobody declared symptoms of illness’, the Alitalia statement said.   

Alitalia added that the decisions by the Mauritian authorities had not been disclosed to the carrier before landing and that it had alerted authorities.

Passengers carry their luggage through the Lyon bus station after they were issued with masks and allowed off the bus

Passengers carry their luggage through the Lyon bus station after they were issued with masks and allowed off the bus

Passengers carry their luggage through the Lyon bus station after they were issued with masks and allowed off the bus 

French officials including members of the fire and safety brigade wear masks at the bus station in Lyon today

French officials including members of the fire and safety brigade wear masks at the bus station in Lyon today

French officials including members of the fire and safety brigade wear masks at the bus station in Lyon today 

A woman wearing a protective face mask is evacuated from the security zone where a bus coming from Milan was blocked

A woman wearing a protective face mask is evacuated from the security zone where a bus coming from Milan was blocked

A woman wearing a protective face mask is evacuated from the security zone where a bus coming from Milan was blocked

Italian soldiers patrol by a check-point at the entrance of the small town of Vo Vecchio

Italian soldiers patrol by a check-point at the entrance of the small town of Vo Vecchio

Italian soldiers patrol by a check-point at the entrance of the small town of Vo Vecchio

A researcher at work in the laboratory of Clinical Microbiology, Virology and Emergency Diagnostics in Milan today

A researcher at work in the laboratory of Clinical Microbiology, Virology and Emergency Diagnostics in Milan today

A researcher at work in the laboratory of Clinical Microbiology, Virology and Emergency Diagnostics in Milan today

An Italian soldier wearing a mask patrols by a check-point at the entrance of the small town of Vo Vecchio

An Italian soldier wearing a mask patrols by a check-point at the entrance of the small town of Vo Vecchio

An Italian soldier wearing a mask patrols by a check-point at the entrance of the small town of Vo Vecchio

A masked emergency worker gives directions to a member of the public at the bus station in Lyon on Monday afternoon

A masked emergency worker gives directions to a member of the public at the bus station in Lyon on Monday afternoon

A masked emergency worker gives directions to a member of the public at the bus station in Lyon on Monday afternoon 

Back in Italy, armed personnel were today guarding the closed Duomo cathedral in Milan and stopping drivers at roadblocks in Lombardy, including near the town of Casalpusterlengo where one of the virus victims died. 

Supermarket shelves and train carriages were empty this morning as panic-buying Italians prepared to stay at home to fend off the virus. 

The wealthy Lombardy region which includes Milan is the worst-affected area, while 25 people have been infected in neighbouring Veneto which includes Venice – where health workers were disinfecting the city today.  

In Venice, health workers were today spraying streets, swimming pools, plazas, pavements and bridges in what the local council describes as ‘exceptional measures’. 

Russian police raid homes and businesses in search of Chinese people 

Moscow has ordered police to raid hotels, dorms, apartment buildings and businesses in search of Chinese people as Russia attempts to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Officials also authorized the use of facial recognition technology to find those suspected of evading a 14-day self-quarantine period upon their arrival in Russia. 

‘Conducting raids is an unpleasant task, but it is necessary, for the potential carriers of the virus as well,’ Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said in a statement. 

Metro workers have been instructed to stop passengers from China and ask them to fill out questionnaires asking why they were in Russia, reports say. 

The forms also ask passengers whether they observed a two-week quarantine, where they are staying and what their current health condition is. 

An email that leaked over the weekend suggested that police would also be alerted to Chinese nationals on public transport, though authorities claimed it was a fake. 

Human rights advocates have condemned the targeting of Chinese nationals as racial profiling, not an effective epidemic control strategy.   

Russia has reported two cases. Both patients, Chinese nationals hospitalized in Siberia, recovered quickly. 

Weeks before, Russia shut down the country’s long land border with China, suspended all trains and most flights between the two countries. 

The cleaning is expected to take in gondolas and other forms of public transport.

One by one, ferry services to the lagoon city are also being cancelled, following the closure of museums and schools with immediate effect. City leaders say they will be announcing more measures later today.  

As the panic spread last night, Austria halted trains from crossing the Alps into Italy after two German women reported a fever on board, although they later tested negative. 

The outbreak has also forced the stoppage of high-profile events including the Venice Carnival, Milan Fashion Week and Serie A football fixtures. 

Four top-flight matches were called off on Sunday, with plans being made to play future games behind closed doors if the crisis does not ease.  

One of the new deaths announced today was an 84-year-old man who died in a Bergamo hospital after being admitted for a different illness but then discovering he had the virus. 

The second was an 88-year-old man from Caselle Landi, in Lombardy. It was not immediately clear whether he had any previous health problems. 

The third was described in Italian media as an 80-year-old man who had recently had a heart attack and died in hospital in Milan.  

Lombardy, the worst-hit region of Italy, announced 53 new cases of coronavirus overnight, bringing the total there to 165 in just four days. 

Some 25 people had the virus in Veneto, while a handful of infections were also recorded in the adjacent regions of Piedmont and Emilia Romagna. 

The three other people who have died of the illness were also elderly and at least two of them had serious underlying health problems. 

‘To be honest, nobody thought the spread would be so aggressive. The illness is not serious, but it must not be underestimated,’ Attilio Fontana, the regional governor of Lombardy, told RTL radio. 

Authorities across the north have shut schools, universities, museums and cinemas for at least a week in the most drastic quarantine measures that any country has taken outside Asia. 

Italian shares fell 4.2 per cent on Monday morning, with businesses, with Banco BPM which has its roots in Lombardy plunging nearly seven per cent. 

Analysts say the outbreak could shunt Italy’s fragile economy into its fourth recession in 12 years, with government bonds also taking a swift hit.  

Italy became the first European country to report one of its nationals died from the virus on Friday.

Two more fatalities came over the weekend but Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte urged people ‘not to give in to panic’, and asked them to follow the advice of health authorities.    

Conte has said that residents in 11 quarantined towns could face weeks of lockdown in an effort to sit out the virus.   

A map showing the latest numbers of coronavirus cases around the world. Cases have surged in South Korea in recent days

Tourists wearing protective facemasks visit St Mark's Square in Venice today, in northern Italy which is heavily affected

Tourists wearing protective facemasks visit St Mark's Square in Venice today, in northern Italy which is heavily affected

Tourists wearing protective facemasks visit St Mark’s Square in Venice today, in northern Italy which is heavily affected

A largely deserted Milano Cadorna railway station is seen during morning rush-hour today as virus fears grip the country

A largely deserted Milano Cadorna railway station is seen during morning rush-hour today as virus fears grip the country

A largely deserted Milano Cadorna railway station is seen during morning rush-hour today as virus fears grip the country

A medical worker adjusts their protective mask in the back of an ambulance in Brescia today amid a spiralling virus outbreak

A medical worker adjusts their protective mask in the back of an ambulance in Brescia today amid a spiralling virus outbreak

A medical worker adjusts their protective mask in the back of an ambulance in Brescia today amid a spiralling virus outbreak

A sparse Milan Central station today with many people in northern Italy quarantined in their towns to contain the outbreak

A sparse Milan Central station today with many people in northern Italy quarantined in their towns to contain the outbreak

A sparse Milan Central station today with many people in northern Italy quarantined in their towns to contain the outbreak

Health workers put up a tent at the Giovanni Bosco Hospital in Turin yesterday as Italy battles to contain the outbreak

Health workers put up a tent at the Giovanni Bosco Hospital in Turin yesterday as Italy battles to contain the outbreak

Health workers put up a tent at the Giovanni Bosco Hospital in Turin yesterday as Italy battles to contain the outbreak

London resident Diego Gullo (pictured) said he had not been advised to take any particular precautions after returning from one of the areas at the centre of Italy's coronavirus outbreak

London resident Diego Gullo (pictured) said he had not been advised to take any particular precautions after returning from one of the areas at the centre of Italy's coronavirus outbreak

London resident Diego Gullo (pictured) said he had not been advised to take any particular precautions after returning from one of the areas at the centre of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak 

Schools have been closed as a precaution in Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna and Friuli Venezia Giulia. 

Piedmont shares a border with France, but French authorities have said there is no need to close borders in response to the spread of virus in Italy. 

Slovenia, which also borders Italy, has asked vacationers returning from ski resorts in northern Italy to be particularly vigilant for symptoms. 

In the UK, British Airways said today it was ‘reviewing the situation’ while a Number 10 spokesman offered no update on Italy but said the threat to the British public was low. 

Diego Gullo, who flew from Milan to London Gatwick on Thursday after visiting his mother in hospital in Codogno at the centre of the crisis, said the NHS had not recommended any quarantine measures. 

Speaking from his home in north London, he told Sky News that he and his family had nonetheless placed themselves in quarantine. 

‘I haven’t had any specific advice, there is no check in the UK,’ he said.  

‘We did call 111 and we were not told anything in particular, they didn’t suggest to do anything special, they suggested to just continue as usual despite my details being very explicit that I was coming back from that area.

‘I also booked a visit for the children and the wife and they were suggested to go to a walk-in centre tomorrow, which I don’t think is probably the best move.’ 

Describing conditions in Codogno, he said: ‘Everything is closed. My nephew is not going to school, he’s staying home for 14 days. My brother is not taking public transport if he has to go to work. 

‘My mother, my sister-in-law, they’re all staying in the house. At the hospital there was no specific warning in relation to the coronavirus, it was just business as usual.’ 

The Foreign Office’s advice to British travellers is to ‘follow the instructions of local authorities’ in affected areas, but there is no general warning not to travel. 

Ireland has gone further, advising its citizens ‘not to travel to affected areas’. British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair said their flights were operating as normal today. 

An Italian Carabinieri police officer speaks to a person on a bicycle at a checkpoint near the town of Castiglione d'Adda

An Italian Carabinieri police officer speaks to a person on a bicycle at a checkpoint near the town of Castiglione d'Adda

An Italian Carabinieri police officer speaks to a person on a bicycle at a checkpoint near the town of Castiglione d’Adda

A woman wearing a sanitary mask sits on a tram in Milan today, in northern Italy at the centre of Europe's worst outbreak

A woman wearing a sanitary mask sits on a tram in Milan today, in northern Italy at the centre of Europe's worst outbreak

A woman wearing a sanitary mask sits on a tram in Milan today, in northern Italy at the centre of Europe’s worst outbreak

Health workers in protective gear work in the town of Castiglione d'Adda in northern Italy today

Health workers in protective gear work in the town of Castiglione d'Adda in northern Italy today

Health workers in protective gear work in the town of Castiglione d’Adda in northern Italy today 

A nearly-empty pedestrian area in the centre of Milan today with northern Italy at the centre of Europe's worst outbreak so far

A nearly-empty pedestrian area in the centre of Milan today with northern Italy at the centre of Europe's worst outbreak so far

A nearly-empty pedestrian area in the centre of Milan today with northern Italy at the centre of Europe’s worst outbreak so far

A woman wearing protective gear picks up mail at an apartment compound in Beijing today

A woman wearing protective gear picks up mail at an apartment compound in Beijing today

A woman wearing protective gear picks up mail at an apartment compound in Beijing today 

UNITED KINGDOM: 30 Britons and two Irish citizens arrived back in Britain on Saturday night (pictured) and were taken for quarantine at Arrowe Park hospital on the Wirral. Four were diagnosed with the virus and rushed to other hospitals

UNITED KINGDOM: 30 Britons and two Irish citizens arrived back in Britain on Saturday night (pictured) and were taken for quarantine at Arrowe Park hospital on the Wirral. Four were diagnosed with the virus and rushed to other hospitals

UNITED KINGDOM: 30 Britons and two Irish citizens arrived back in Britain on Saturday night (pictured) and were taken for quarantine at Arrowe Park hospital on the Wirral. Four were diagnosed with the virus and rushed to other hospitals

Meanwhile, Israel has added travellers from Italy to a list of people who may need to go into quarantine if they arrive in Israel with possible virus symptoms.  

Last night Austria held up a train carrying around 300 people in the Brenner Pass, which crosses the Alps from Austria to Italy. 

The train was halted amid panic over two German women who had flu-like symptoms, but was later given the all-clear after they tested negative.     

Experts have warned of an ‘uncontrollable spread’ of the virus.  

‘Over the weekend we’ve seen new cases of coronavirus infection across Asia and now in Europe,’ said Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiology expert at the University of Reading. 

‘Worryingly, it seems that the virus can pass from person-to-person without symptoms, making it extremely difficult track, regardless of what health authorities do. 

‘While it remains the case that most people who become infected will have light symptoms or none at all, such uncontrollable spread would present a serious risk to vulnerable individuals.’    

Meanwhile, a virus expert from the World Health Organization said the coronavirus could be the ‘Disease X’ which experts have warned about.

The name is given to a future disease which could break out among humans and wreak havoc across the world.

‘Dr Marion Koopmans, a virologist for the WHO, said: ‘Whether it will be contained or not, this outbreak is rapidly becoming the first true pandemic challenge that fits the disease X category.’  

After Italy recorded its first death on Friday, the director general of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke of a narrowing ‘window of opportunity.’ 

Sharp rises in Italy, Iran and South Korea have brought this window into stark focus as the global infection toll soared to 79,565 today, including more than 2,600 deaths.    

SOUTH KOREA: Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant at a market in the southeastern city of Daegu. South Korea reported two additional deaths from coronavirus and 123 more cases on February 23, with nearly two thirds of the new patients connected to a religious sect. The national toll of 763 cases is now the second-highest outside of China, with seven dead

SOUTH KOREA: Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant at a market in the southeastern city of Daegu. South Korea reported two additional deaths from coronavirus and 123 more cases on February 23, with nearly two thirds of the new patients connected to a religious sect. The national toll of 763 cases is now the second-highest outside of China, with seven dead

SOUTH KOREA: Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant at a market in the southeastern city of Daegu. South Korea reported two additional deaths from coronavirus and 123 more cases on February 23, with nearly two thirds of the new patients connected to a religious sect. The national toll of 763 cases is now the second-highest outside of China, with seven dead

Most of the cases in Italy can be traced back to a 38-year-old man in the town of Codogno whom authorities have called ‘patient one’.

Investigators are reconstructing minute by minute the man’s movements over the past few weeks – where he slept, ate, walked – in a bid to trace everyone he could have come into contact with.

‘We had the most unfortunate situation possible; the outbreak of an epidemic in a hospital,’ infectious disease expert Massimo Galli told the Corriere della Sera daily.

‘Unfortunately, in these cases, a hospital can turn into a frightening amplifier of contagion,’ he said.. 

The 38-year old had not travelled to China and doctors failed to treat him with the necessary precautions.

The man initially believed to have given him the virus after returning from Shanghai later tested negative. ‘We still do not know who brought the coronavirus to Codogno,’ Galli said.    

JAPAN: Sumo wrestlers wearing face masks are seen on arrival at Shin Osaka Station ahead of the Grand Sumo Spring Tournament on Sunday

JAPAN: Sumo wrestlers wearing face masks are seen on arrival at Shin Osaka Station ahead of the Grand Sumo Spring Tournament on Sunday

JAPAN: Sumo wrestlers wearing face masks are seen on arrival at Shin Osaka Station ahead of the Grand Sumo Spring Tournament on Sunday

China BANS eating wild animals amid fears the practice sparked coronavirus outbreak 

China has today declared a ban on eating wild animals, a practice believed to be responsible for the outbreak. 

The immediate and ‘comprehensive’ ban was approved by the country’s top legislative committee today.  

The ban is aimed at ‘prohibiting the illegal wildlife trade, abolishing the bad habit of overconsumption of wildlife, and effectively protecting the lives and health of the people,’ state television said.

Previous temporary bans have been put in place, including after the SARS virus killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in 2002-03 and was also traced to wild animal consumption.

However, that ban was short-lived and conservationists have long accused China of allowing a cruel trade in wild animals as exotic menu items or for use in dubious medicines.

Today’s decision was made by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), which oversees the country’s rubber-stamp legislature.

Chinese health officials have said the virus likely emerged from a market in the central city of Wuhan that sold wild animals as food.

The coronavirus has killed 2,592 people in China, infected some 77,000 others and paralysed the country’s economy. 

Elsewhere, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Bahrain have today confirmed their first virus cases, with all three countries saying their first patients had recently returned from Iran.   

On Saturday night, four Britons evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess tested positive for the illness after 32 passengers from the cruise liner held in Japan arrived for quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.

Two of the patients are in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, one is in the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and a fourth was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. 

While the European Union urged there was ‘no need to panic’, health experts warned that in the last 24 hours the world has been brought to the brink.

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: ‘The director general of the WHO has recently spoken of a narrowing of the window of opportunity to control the current epidemic. 

‘The tipping point after which our ability to prevent a global pandemic ends seems a lot closer after the past 24 hours.’

He noted that despite numbers declining in China, where the outbreak began in December, the weekend’s developments were ‘extremely concerning.’   

Dr Robin Thompson, junior research fellow in mathematical epidemiology at the University of Oxford, told The Guardian: ‘This is an important stage of the coronavirus outbreak …  Fast isolation of even mild cases in affected areas is important for preventing substantial person-to-person transmission in Europe.

‘It is critical that public health guidelines are followed.’  

An ambulance and police are seen as coaches containing British Diamond Princess evacuees arrive at Arrowe Park Hospital on Saturday night. four Britons evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken vessel tested positive for the illness after 32 passengers from the ship held in Japan arrived in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.

An ambulance and police are seen as coaches containing British Diamond Princess evacuees arrive at Arrowe Park Hospital on Saturday night. four Britons evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken vessel tested positive for the illness after 32 passengers from the ship held in Japan arrived in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.

An ambulance and police are seen as coaches containing British Diamond Princess evacuees arrive at Arrowe Park Hospital on Saturday night. four Britons evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken vessel tested positive for the illness after 32 passengers from the ship held in Japan arrived in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.

A view of the stopped train at the Brenner railway station at the border between Tyrol, Austria, and South Tyrol, Italy, seen from the Austrian side on Sunday night

A view of the stopped train at the Brenner railway station at the border between Tyrol, Austria, and South Tyrol, Italy, seen from the Austrian side on Sunday night

A view of the stopped train at the Brenner railway station at the border between Tyrol, Austria, and South Tyrol, Italy, seen from the Austrian side on Sunday night

Fifty people are ‘killed by virus in Iranian city’, lawmaker says 

Fifty people have died of coronavirus in the Iranian city of Qom, a lawmaker has said – despite official regime figures showing only 12 deaths in all of Iran. 

Ahmad Amiriabadi Farahani told a session of Parliament in Tehran that 50 people had died in Qom in the last 11 days. 

‘I think the performance of the administration in controlling the virus has not been successful,’ he said. 

‘None of the nurses have access to proper protective gears,’ Farahani said, adding that some health care specialists had left the city. 

‘So far, I have not seen any particular action to confront corona by the administration.’  

Health ministry spokesman Iraj Harirchi rejected the Qom lawmaker’s claims, insisting the death toll from the virus remains at 12.

However, he raised the number of confirmed cases from the virus to 61. Some 900 other suspected cases are being tested, he said.

‘No one is qualified to discuss this sort of news at all,’ Haririchi said, adding that lawmakers have no access to coronavirus statistics.  

South Korea today reported another surge in cases, with another 161 patients diagnosed – most of them linked to the secretive religious sect at the centre of the outbreak – bringing the total to 763 of whom seven have died. 

The country has also postponed the start of the new football season, with all K-League fixtures pushed back after officials said the outbreak had ‘entered a serious phase’.     

Of South Korea’s 161 new cases, 129 were related to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a secretive sect based in Daegu which is widely regarded as a cult. 

Officials are also investigating a possible link between churchgoers and a spike in infections at a hospital in nearby Cheongdo.

Five of South Korea’s seven virus deaths have been linked to the hospital in Cheongdo, where a slew of infections were confirmed among patients in a mental ward. 

Officials have voiced hope that they they can contain the outbreak in Daegu, but there are also signs of the virus spreading across the country, including a number of cases in the capital Seoul.  

Health minister Kim Gang-lip said that health officials plan to test all of Daegu’s residents exhibiting cold-like symptoms, which he said would be about 28,000 people. 

‘In Daegu, the number of new cases that are being confirmed by tests is quite large, and if we fail to effectively stem community transmissions in this area, there would be a large possibility [that it] spreads nationwide,’ he said.

The national government has shuttered schools, cancelled events, and asked companies to scatter working hours and keep employees at home if they experience coughs or other respiratory symptoms.  

Seoul’s mayor Park Won-soon has also scattered the working hours of some 40,000 city employees to ease transit congestion and warned of sterner action against protesters who defied a ban on rallies.   

A police officer wearing a protective face mask stands next to a masked carnival reveller at Venice Carnival, with the last two days, as well as Sunday night's festivities, cancelled because of coronavirus. As Italy recorded three deaths, the director general of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke of a narrowing 'window of opportunity.'

A police officer wearing a protective face mask stands next to a masked carnival reveller at Venice Carnival, with the last two days, as well as Sunday night's festivities, cancelled because of coronavirus. As Italy recorded three deaths, the director general of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke of a narrowing 'window of opportunity.'

A police officer wearing a protective face mask stands next to a masked carnival reveller at Venice Carnival, with the last two days, as well as Sunday night’s festivities, cancelled because of coronavirus. As Italy recorded three deaths, the director general of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke of a narrowing ‘window of opportunity.’

Sumo wrestlers wearing face masks are seen on arrival at Shin Osaka Station ahead of the Grand Sumo Spring Tournament on Sunday

Sumo wrestlers wearing face masks are seen on arrival at Shin Osaka Station ahead of the Grand Sumo Spring Tournament on Sunday

Sumo wrestlers wearing face masks are seen on arrival at Shin Osaka Station ahead of the Grand Sumo Spring Tournament on Sunday

Sumo wrestlers wearing face masks arrive at the JR Shin-Osaka train station on Sunday night

Sumo wrestlers wearing face masks arrive at the JR Shin-Osaka train station on Sunday night

Sumo wrestlers wearing face masks arrive at the JR Shin-Osaka train station on Sunday night

Iran’s confirmed death toll yesterday rose to eight, prompting travel bans from neighbouring countries. 

Bahrain and Kuwait both revealed their first cases of the virus today, with both countries saying that the patients had recently entered from Iran.  

Along with Italy, Iran has begun introducing the sort of containment measures previously seen only in China, which has put tens of millions of people under lockdown in Hubei province, the outbreak’s epicentre. 

On Sunday, China’s President Xi Jinping called the epidemic the ‘largest public health emergency’ in the country’s history.  

‘This is a crisis for us and it is a big test,’ Xi said during remarks carried by state television.

In a rare admission, at a meeting to coordinate the fight against the virus, Xi added that China must learn from ‘obvious shortcomings exposed’ during its response.

The WHO has praised Beijing for its handling of the epidemic, but China has been criticised at home for silencing early warnings from a whistleblower doctor who later died from the virus. 

The second patient to die was an elderly woman whose death has triggered the closing down of shops, offices and community centres in Casalpusterlengo, according to Italian news agency Ansa. Pictured are medical workers outside a hospital in Padua

The second patient to die was an elderly woman whose death has triggered the closing down of shops, offices and community centres in Casalpusterlengo, according to Italian news agency Ansa. Pictured are medical workers outside a hospital in Padua

The second patient to die was an elderly woman whose death has triggered the closing down of shops, offices and community centres in Casalpusterlengo, according to Italian news agency Ansa. Pictured are medical workers outside a hospital in Padua

The first to die was retired bricklayer Adriano Trevisan, 78, (pictured) who passed away in a hospital in north eastern Italy on Friday evening

The first to die was retired bricklayer Adriano Trevisan, 78, (pictured) who passed away in a hospital in north eastern Italy on Friday evening

People wear protective face masks in front of a closed elementary school in Vo' Euganeo, Padova

People wear protective face masks in front of a closed elementary school in Vo' Euganeo, Padova

The first Italian to die was retired bricklayer Adriano Trevisan, 78, (pictured left) who died in hospital in Padua on Friday evening. Pictured right: health workers wearing  protective face masks in front of a school in Padua 

The last two days of the carnival in Venice, as well as Sunday night's festivities, have been cancelled because of an outbreak of coronavirus. Pictured: Attendee wearing a facemask

The last two days of the carnival in Venice, as well as Sunday night's festivities, have been cancelled because of an outbreak of coronavirus. Pictured: Attendee wearing a facemask

The last two days of the carnival in Venice, as well as Sunday night’s festivities, have been cancelled because of an outbreak of coronavirus. Pictured: Attendee wearing a facemask

Tourists wear protective face masks in a gondola, because of an outbreak of coronavirus, in Venice

Tourists wear protective face masks in a gondola, because of an outbreak of coronavirus, in Venice

Tourists wear protective face masks in a gondola, because of an outbreak of coronavirus, in Venice

Carnival revellers wear protective face masks at Venice Carnival, which the last two days of, as well as Sunday night's festivities, have been cancelled

Carnival revellers wear protective face masks at Venice Carnival, which the last two days of, as well as Sunday night's festivities, have been cancelled

Carnival revellers wear protective face masks at Venice Carnival, which the last two days of, as well as Sunday night’s festivities, have been cancelled

‘The rapid increase in reported cases in Italy over the past two days is of concern,’ World Health Organization spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said.

Not all reported cases seem to have clear epidemiological links, such as travel history to China or contact with a confirmed case, Jasarevic added.

‘At this stage, we need to focus on limiting further human to human transmission.’

Iran ordered the closure of schools, universities and cultural centres across 14 provinces following eight deaths – the most outside East Asia.

The outbreak in the Islamic Republic surfaced Wednesday and quickly grew to 43 confirmed infections, a sudden rise that prompted regional travel restrictions.

Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pachinian said his country will close its border with Iran and suspend flights.

Roma supporters wear protective face masks due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic prior to the Italian Serie A soccer match between AS Roma and US Lecce at the Olimpico stadium in Rome, Italy

Roma supporters wear protective face masks due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic prior to the Italian Serie A soccer match between AS Roma and US Lecce at the Olimpico stadium in Rome, Italy

Roma supporters wear protective face masks due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic prior to the Italian Serie A soccer match between AS Roma and US Lecce at the Olimpico stadium in Rome, Italy

Lazio fans were also pictured wearing face masks during the Serie A match between Genoa CFC and SS Lazio that went ahead at Stadio Luigi Ferraris earlier today

Lazio fans were also pictured wearing face masks during the Serie A match between Genoa CFC and SS Lazio that went ahead at Stadio Luigi Ferraris earlier today

Lazio fans were also pictured wearing face masks during the Serie A match between Genoa CFC and SS Lazio that went ahead at Stadio Luigi Ferraris earlier today

East Anglia Prof. Hunter said the situation in Iran has ‘major implications’ for the Middle East.

‘It is unlikely that Iran will have the resources and facilities to adequately identify cases and adequately manage them if case numbers are large,’ Prof. Hunter said.

Pakistan and Turkey announced the closure of land crossings with Iran while Afghanistan said it was suspending travel to the country. 

The outbreak in China remains concentrated in the city of Wuhan – locked down one month ago – where the virus is believed to have emanated from a live animal market in December.

China’s infection rate has slowed, but flip-flopping over counting methods has sown confusion over its data.

There also was growing concern over the difficulty of detecting the virus. 

Japan on Sunday confirmed a woman who tested negative and disembarked from the virus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship later tested positive.

Similarly in Israel, authorities confirmed that a second Israeli citizen who returned from the ship had tested positive. They were among 11 Israelis allowed off the ship and flown home after initially testing negative.

Japan has been criticised over its handling of cases aboard the vessel quarantined off Yokohama.

A third passenger died Sunday, Japan’s health ministry said, without specifying if it was as a result of the virus. 

Children wearing face masks play hockey on rollers, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country, in Beijing

Children wearing face masks play hockey on rollers, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country, in Beijing

Children wearing face masks play hockey on rollers, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the country, in Beijing

Ambulances carrying patients infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus arrive at a hospital in Daegu, South Korea on Sunday

Ambulances carrying patients infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus arrive at a hospital in Daegu, South Korea on Sunday

Ambulances carrying patients infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus arrive at a hospital in Daegu, South Korea on Sunday

A woman practises Wushu, a Chinese martial art, while wearing a mask as a precautionary measure against the spread of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus in Hong Kong

A woman practises Wushu, a Chinese martial art, while wearing a mask as a precautionary measure against the spread of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus in Hong Kong

A woman practises Wushu, a Chinese martial art, while wearing a mask as a precautionary measure against the spread of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus in Hong Kong

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