SEOUL, South Korea —
The Latest on the virus outbreak (all times local):
12:05 a.m. Saturday
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says it looks like the U.K. will face a “substantial period of disruption” from the new coronavirus outbreak and the government plans to put aid for affected businesses in the national budget.
The number of people in Britain infected with the virus increased to 163, the government reported Friday. A woman in her 70s with underlying health conditions who died Thursday became the country’s first casualty of the COVID-19 disease.
After visiting a laboratory of a company that is involved in efforts to develop a rapid method for diagnosing virus infections, Johnson said a vaccine or rapid test would be “life-changing and life-saving.”
“If we can get a test kit, of the kind they are producing here in the next few months, in a realistic timetable …. If we can get a vaccine as well, then humanity is going to push back the legions of disease,” he said.
French President Emmanuel Macron visited a retirement home in Paris —which has 94 residents, the oldest aged 107— in a move to reassure both the elderly and health workers about France’s readiness to combat the spread of the virus.
Macron said France will likely move to the highest level of epidemic alert “in the coming days” as the new coronavirus keeps spreading. French Health authorities on Friday reported 577 confirmed cases of the virus, including nine deaths. The virus is known to affect the elderly and the sick more than other groups of people.
Macron says “the priority of the nation is to protect our elderly people. We must do it with responsibility, common sense and measures of discipline, and without any panic.”
Macron announced earlier this week that his government was requisitioning all current and future stocks of protective masks in order to ensure their distribution to virus patients and health workers.
The Dutch public health institute has reported the Netherlands’ first coronavirus death, while Serbia and Slovakia confirmed their first cases of the virus.
An 86-year-old man died in a hospital in Rotterdam. It is not known where he contracted the virus. The Netherlands currently has 82 known infections.
The 43-year-old man now infected in Serbia had visited Budapest, the Hungarian capital. The 52-year-old man hospitalized in Slovakia didn’t travel abroad but his son had returned recently from Venice. Italy, with 148 virus deaths and over 3,800 infections, is the epicenter of Europe’s virus outbreak.
Elsewhere, Germany’s confirmed virus cases topped 530 and the government-run Robert Koch Institute announced it has added Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige region to the list of “risk areas” where community transmission of the virus is suspected. The German-speaking region in northern Italy is popular with German tourists.
Virus cases rose to 423 in France, 345 in Spain and 109 in Belgium.
Thailand has denied entry to passengers and crew of a cruise ship that arrived at the popular Andaman Sea resort island of Phuket.
Phuket Immigration Police Chief Col. Narong Chanaphaikul said his office would not allow the more than 2,000 people on board the Costa Fortuna to disembark because some passengers are from Italy. That is a country which Thai health authorities have officially designated a dangerous communicable disease area, along with South Korea, China, Macao, Hong Kong and Iran.
Thai authorities can prohibit the entry of anyone traveling from a designated dangerous disease area or require them to undergo physical exams or be quarantined.
Narong said even though there were no known cases of COVID-19 abroad the ship, it would be impractical to check or quarantine such a large number of passengers for a one-day stop.
Thailand last month denied docking privileges to the cruise ship Westerdam after it had already been turned away at several other Asian and Pacific locations. The passengers were finally allowed off at the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville, and returned home by air.
People arriving in Thailand from six countries and territories will have to submit daily reports on their health as a measure against the spread of the new virus.
Thailand’s Public Health Ministry announced the new regulation Friday after officially designating South Korea, China, Macao, Hong Kong, Italy and Iran as “dangerous communicable disease areas.”
Dr. Thanarak Plipat, deputy director of the Bureau of Epidemiology under the Public Health Ministry’s Department of Disease Control, said officials can order people to be placed under quarantine if they are suspected of having the virus.
Both Thai citizens and foreigners who visited those areas must produce daily reports on their health and their whereabouts for 14 days, with officials collecting the information either online or by phone.
The government has been reluctant to impose broad restrictions on travelers. Thailand’s tourism industry is huge, both in terms of revenue and people employed, and visitors from China — where the virus outbreak began — comprise the greatest share of arrivals. Hotels and other tourism-related businesses have reported sharp losses.
The U.N. human rights chief is calling on governments and businesses to help alleviate the effect of lockdowns, quarantines and other measures aimed to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet says measures to fight the virus should comply with human rights standards, and says efforts should be made to “protect the most vulnerable and neglected people in society.”
Bachelet’s office said school closures like those instituted in some countries could force parents to stay home from work, “a measure that is likely to disproportionately affect women.” It said workers who “self-isolate” could face lost pay or jobs, and pointed to the impact on trade — which could trickle down to employees.
Bachelet said in Friday’s statement that governments should be alert to “unintended consequences of their actions,” while businesses should respond “with flexibility to the impact on their employees.”
Bachelet said “human dignity and rights need to be front and center in that effort, not an afterthought.”
A Vatican spokesman has confirmed the first case of coronavirus at the city-state, as did officials in the African nation of Cameroon.
Vatican Spokesman Matteo Bruni said Friday that non-emergency medical services at the Vatican have been closed so they can be sanitized following the positive test on Thursday.
More details on the identity of the person testing positive were not made available.
Vatican medical services are also available to staff and family members of people working at the Vatican.
The pope, meanwhile, is recovering from a cold, and the Vatican has said that he has no other pathologies.
Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health said its first patient is a 58-year-old French citizen who arrived in the Central African country on Feb. 24. The ministry said Friday that surveillance has been put in place, and the patient is in solitary confinement in a hospital.
Japan has canceled a memorial for victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Crown Prince Akishino and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been scheduled to speak at the event next Wednesday. The government memorial in past years was broadcast live to towns worst-hit by the disaster, but the local events were being canceled or trimmed back as well.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday the cancellation was unavoidable because Japan “must take all possible steps to stop the further spread of the virus in the country.” Japan has urged schools to close nationwide and limited large gatherings of people among its containment measures.
Japan has more than 1,000 cases of infection, including about 700 from a cruise ship.
The March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami devastated parts of Japan’s northeastern coast, killed 18,000 people and caused reactor meltdowns at a damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture.
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