Coronavirus outbreak: Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro refutes media reports, says ‘tested negative’

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Local media reports have surfaced that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has also tested positive for Coronavirus. (File)

As the global Coronavirus death toll crossed 5,000 and has infected as many as 1,34,530, countries across the world are on caution and are undertaking severe precautionary steps to combat the contagious virus. While China's Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, has seen a drop in fresh cases, the country on Friday confirmed eight deaths, taking the toll to 3,176.

Local media reports emerged late Friday evening that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has also tested positive. US President Donald Trump, however, said he was not concerned about 64-year old Bolsonaro being monitored after both of them met at a Florida resort, last weekend. The Brazil President's communications director, Fabio Wajngarten who tested positive for Covid-19 recently, had also traveled with Bolsonaro to meet Trump.

Italy, the European epicentre of the virus outbreak and the hardest-hit country outside Wuhan, has registered over 1,000 deaths with more than 15,000 testing positive. Iran, which is yet another world's worst affected countries, again registered the highest single-day toll today with 85 deaths, taking the total to 514.

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, members of a Chinese aid team arrive at Fiumicino Airport in Rome, late Thursday. (AP)

Besides these, over 120 countries have reported the infection. Trinidad and Tobago as well as Ghana reported their first cases, while Algeria, Azerbaijan, Greece, India, Norway and Poland recorded their first fatalities.

Asian shares plunged, then recovered slightly as markets continued to reel from uncertainty over the coronavirus crisis. Benchmarks in Japan, Thailand and India sank as much as 10% following Wall Street's biggest drop since the Black Monday crash of 1987. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 fell nearly 6%.

As the climbing season draws close, Nepal has closed all of its Himalayan peaks, including Mount Everest because of heightening Coronavirus fears, a government minister was quoted as saying by Reuters. Nepal is home to eight of world's 14 highest peaks and earns over $4.4 million a year through permit fees from climbers.

A commuter looks through a water-stained window wearing a mask and gloves to help guard against the Coronavirus, on a public bus in downtown Tehran, Iran, Feb. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Two fresh cases in India, total 80

The number of coronavirus cases in India rose to 80 after a Google employee and another employee at a Noida-based firm tested positive on Friday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed that the leadership of SAARC nations could chalk out a joint strategy to fight coronavirus and set an example for the world.

"I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight coronavirus. We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy," he wrote on Twitter.

In India, the benchmark equity indices on the BSE and National Stock Exchange (NSE) staged a sharp recovery after the trade resumed post a 45-minute break, however, they continued to remain volatile with both the indices swing sharply between positive and negative territories.

Iran reports 85 new deaths, takes toll to 514

In Iran, which exceeds 11,000 cases and 500 deaths, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the Trump administration to immediately lift sanctions over the country's nuclear program. As the virus continues to spread rapidly across the region, religious authorities have moved to cancel or limit weekly prayer gathering across the Middle East on Friday to ensure social distancing and encouraged the faithful to pray for those afflicted by the pandemic.

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At a residential compound in Wuhan, a man looks out of the window while eating noodles. To date, the total accumulated number of cases of coronavirus in mainland China is 80,813. (Reuters)

Iran has already cancelled Friday prayers in major cities as Covid-19 has reached Iran's top officials, including its senior vice president, Cabinet ministers, members of Parliament, Revolutionary Guard members and Health Ministry officials, news agency AP reported.

China says it wants to offer virus assistance

Chinese President Xi Jinping has told the United Nations that his country wants to conduct joint research on drugs and vaccines and offer "as much assistance as it can" to countries where the novel coronavirus is spreading. State media reported Friday that Xi told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres by phone that economic and daily life are gradually returning to normal in China thanks to "arduous endeavors" at prevention and control.

"The Chinese people will definitely prevail over the COVID-19 epidemic and will also definitely realize its intended targets for economic and social development," Xi was quoted as saying.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie tests positive for coronavirus

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau has tested positive for coronovirus, a spokesman for the prime minister said.

The prime minister is in good health with no symptoms, the spokesman said in a statement on Twitter.

Justin Trudeau’s wife will be in isolation for the moment, while the prime minister will be in self-isolation for 14 days, according to the statement.

Recovery cases higher in South Korea

South Korea reported more recoveries than new infections on Friday for the first time since its outbreak emerged in January. The country recorded 110 new cases, compared with 114 a day earlier, taking the national tally to 7,979.

A South Korean worker cleans a door with disinfectant at a cram school teaching math, amid the rise in confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Daegu, South Korea. (Reuters)

Thai minister warns against 'dirty' Europeans

Igniting a controversy, Thailand's health minister warned people about the possible spread of the coronavirus from vacationing Europeans "who wear dirty clothes and don't shower," news agency AP reported. Anutin Charnvirakul, the minister on his Twitter timeline had lashed out at Western visitors for not wearing face masks to protect against the virus, and warned his fellow Thais that they should be more careful in dealing with Westerners than Asians.

Thailand's government has come under criticism for confusing and inconsistent handling of the health crisis.

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People wear protective masks in an MTR train, following the outbreak of the new coronavirus in Hong Kong, China March. (Reuters)

Travel industry under siege as coronavirus contagion grows

The fallout from the virus spread across the Pacific on Friday, with Australian travel firms issuing profit warnings and Japanese carriers cutting capacity while US airlines rushed to cut flights to Europe in the wake of new travel restrictions. US travel curbs on much of continental Europe announced by President Donald Trump on Wednesday evening deepened the sector's misery that began after the virus emerged in China late last year and reduced traffic.

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The number of coronavirus cases in India rose to 76 after a Google employee and another employee at a Noida-based firm tested positive on Friday. (File)

United Airlines Holdings Inc warned of US travel disruption as the virus spreads domestically and major tourist attractions like Walt Disney Co's theme parks in California and Florida said they would close. American Airlines Group Inc and United said they would continue normal flights to and from Europe for the next week but would be reducing capacity to Europe by around 50% in April.

Cleaning drive across Indonesia mosques

The Indonesian government is overseeing a campaign to clean 10,000 mosques around the country as part of its bid to contain the virus. The cleaning campaign kicked off Friday at Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta and was witnessed by President Joko Widodo and other officials.

Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi called on officers at mosques nationwide to roll up the carpets and spray disinfectant. The minister also called on worshippers at mosques to avoid any form of physical contact. Razi said: "We temporarily recommend not to doing handshaking, kissing on the cheek or other body contact as it is the medium of the transmission."

Employees wearing protective face masks clean and disinfect a bus, as part of measures to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus in Moscow, Russia. (Reuters)

Singapore steps up measures

Singapore has tightened preventive measures, including expanding border controls, banning cruise ships and limiting mass gatherings. From Sunday, travelers from Italy, Spain, France and Germany will not be allowed to enter the Southeast Asian city-state. Singapore earlier banned those from South Korea, Iran and China.

The Health Ministry said Friday that travelers who showed symptoms but tested negative for COVID-19 will now have to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days. With immediate effect, it said Singapore will also cease port calls for all cruise vessels.

Australia PM announces crowd ban

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison today announced a ban on all non-essential gatherings of over 500 people starting from Monday and urged citizens to reconsider foreign travel to limit the rapid spread of coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 5,000 people.

Morrison said the ban would not be extended to schools, universities, public transport or airports.

"It is a precautionary (measure). It is getting ahead of this to ensure that we can minimise the impact on your health and (so) we can ensure with confidence the ability for people to be accessing the health services that they and their families will need," he said.

The prime minister also advised the citizens not to travel overseas unless it is essential. "We now advise all Australians to reconsider your need to travel overseas at this time, regardless of your destination, age or health," Morrison said.

Australia women's limited overs tour of South Africa, starting on March 22, was today suspended due to the dreaded novel coronavirus, Cricket Australia said. Australia were scheduled to play six matches including three ODIs and as many T20s starting in Durban. "Australia's three-match One-Day International and three-match Twenty20 International Qantas tour of South Africa has been suspended until further notice," CA said in a media statement.

Japan approves emergency powers for PM to tackle coronavirus outbreak

Japan's parliament today approved a bill giving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emergency powers that will let him declare a state of emergency if the coronavirus outbreak worsens in the country. However, the law is controversial as it severely limits civil rights.

Minori Sawa, 8-year-old second grader in elementary school, with her mother Junko and her younger brother Kota, listen to a new live radio show on FM Sagami for kids who are stuck at home, as schools across Japan remain closed due to coronavirus, at their home in Sagamihara, Japan. (Reuters)

The bill, which amends a 2012 law drawn up after a flu epidemic in 2009, was approved by upper house lawmakers after the lower house passed the legislation on Thursday. Abe would have to declare a state of emergency in order to use the new powers.

Japan has almost 1,400 coronavirus cases including about 697 from a cruise ship, according to public broadcaster NHK. Twenty-six people have died, including seven from the cruise liner.