Coronavirus: South Korea cases surge as Australia bans Iran arrivals | World news

Australia has placed a travel ban on Iran because of coronavirus, putting it on the same level of restrictions as China, following the first case in Australia of a person who had travelled to Iran testing positive to Covid-19.

South Korea has urged its citizens to stay indoors and warned it is facing a “critical moment” in its battle against the coronavirus. It has recorded its biggest daily jump in the number of cases reported since it reported its first case on 20 January, with 594 new cases reported on Saturday. The total number of cases is 2,931. Another person is confirmed to have died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 17.

The South Korean vice health minister Kim Kang-lip said: “We have asked you to refrain from taking part in public events, including a religious gathering or protest, this weekend. Please stay at home and refrain from going outside and minimise contact with other people.” As many as 476 of the new cases were from south-eastern Daegu city, the site of a church at the centre of the outbreak. Health authorities have run tests on more than 210,000 members and 65,000 trainees of the church.

In the US, health officials are reportedly worried that coronavirus is spreading through communities on the west coast, after three patients – one in Oregon, one in California and one in Washington – were infected through unknown means. The patients were an older woman in northern California with chronic health conditions, a high school student in Everett, Washington, and an employee at an elementary school in Portland, Oregon. None had recently travelled overseas or had any known close contact with a traveller or infected person, authorities said.

Iran has the highest number of deaths from the novel coronavirus outside of China. There have been at least 34 deaths reported but it is thought the real figure could be much higher. The US has also strengthened its travel advice, raising Iran and Italy to a level three, advising people to “avoid non-essential travel.”

In Australia, the travel ban on Iran was announced after authorities said they were trying to trace up to 40 people who may have received treatment on the Gold Coast in the state of Queensland from a beautician who returned from Iran on Monday and later became ill. She tested positive to coronavirus.

The British government has confirmed that an expatriate Briton is among the six passengers who have died of coronavirus after being on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are supporting the family of a British man who has died in Japan and are in contact with local authorities. Our sympathies and thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

The latest patient in England is the first to contract the illness while in the UK. The chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, said it was unclear whether the man from Surrey contracted it directly or indirectly from someone who had recently returned from abroad. In total there were four new UK cases on Friday, including the first confirmed positive test in Wales in a woman from Swansea. She had visited northern Italy, Europe’s worst-hit area, where there have been 21 deaths and 820 confirmed cases. Two new patients in England caught the virus in Iran and are being treated at a specialist unit at the Royal Free hospital in London, said Whitty.

Mainland China has recorded 427 new cases, all but four of which were in Hubei province. There have been about 80,000 confirmed cases in mainland China. The death toll rose by 47, bringing the total number of deaths to 2,835.

In Japan, the traditional cherry blossom festivals in Tokyo and Osaka, which attract millions of people wanting to seeing the white and pink flowers, will not go ahead as planned in April. “We are sincerely sorry for those who were looking forward to the viewing … but please give us your understanding,” the Japan Mint in Osaka said.

The US government will reportedly suspend a planned meeting of Asean leaders in Las Vegas on 14 March over coronavirus fears. The UN has recommended ministers and diplomats avoid travelling to New York for a meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women next week.

Globally, there are an estimated 85,000 cases of Covid-19 and some 2,900 deaths. The virus has been detected in 58 countries.

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