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Agencies
March 12, 2020

Corona is pandemic now: WHO

Top Story

A
Agencies
March 12, 2020

GENEVA/ROME/OTTAWA//LONDON/NEWYORK/KERBALA/BERLIN/BEIJING/SHANGHAI/TEHRANKUALA LUMPUR/ SKARDU: The new coronavirus outbreak can now be characterised as a pandemic, the head of the World Health Organisation said Wednesday.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was alarmed by the spread and severity of the outbreak, along with a lack of action taken to combat it. "COVID-19 can be characterised as a pandemic," he told reporters in Geneva.

He said he expected the number of cases and deaths would grow in the coming days and weeks. "We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus," he said. He also said hard-hit Iran was trying its best to control the outbreak but needed more supplies.

Meanwhile, Europe, United States, Canada and China have allocated billions of dollars to tackle spread of coronavirus and to save their economy from collapse.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Wednesday that Rome was allocating 25 billion euros ($28.3 billion) to fight the novel coronavirus outbreak that has killed 631 people in Italy.

"We have allocated an emergency sum of 25 billion euros," Conte told reporters during a break in a meeting on the government’s response to the rapidly escalating health crisis. The entire sum "will not all be used immediately," Conte added.

Italy, whose faltering economy is the third largest in the eurozone, needs special EU permission to spend more than allowed under the bloc’s strict budget rules for its 27 member states. EU leaders had said they would accept Italy’s request when it still stood at 7.5 billion euros.

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister JustinTrudeau on Wednesday announced the creation of a Can$1 billion fund to deal with the impact of the coronavirus epidemic.

"It will provide funding to provinces and territories to help them prepare for any possibility and to mitigate risks to Canadians," Trudeau said at a news conference.

Canada has had one death so far from 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and has nearly 100 confirmed cases. The fund will be used to reinforce Canada's provincial health systems, and provide financial aid to Canadians forced to undergo isolation.

"Today's announcement is significant, but we are already preparing to do more, if need be." He said easy access to credit would be made available to businesses facing a short-term cash crunch, and the government would work "to protect jobs and to be there for businesses."

Britain government and Bank of England on Wednesday launched a coordinated emergency response to the country’s significant but temporary economic impact from the coronavirus, pledging fiscal stimulus worth pound 30 billion and slashing interest rate to a record low.

Meanwhile, Wall Street stocks dove deeper into the red in afternoon trading Wednesday, with losses accelerating after the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus a global pandemic. While US has allocated billions of dollar to contain losses as a result of coronavirus.

Near 1710 GMT, the Dow Jones Industrial was down more than 1,200 points, or 5.0 percent, at 23,777.17.

The broad-based S&P 500 slumped 4.6 percent to 2,749.88, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index tumbled 4.4 percent to 7,979.15.

Meanwhile, Iraq cancelled Friday prayers in Kerbala due to concerns about the coronavirus, a statement from the administration of the city’s holy site said on Wednesday.

Kerbala, like the neighboring holy city of Najaf, attracts Shia pilgrims from Iraq and abroad. Prayers had already been canceled last Friday.

Germany will spend what it takes to tackle the coronavirus which is likely to infect up to 70% of the population in Europe’s largest economy, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.

“We will do what we need to get through this. And then at the end we will look at what that means for our budget,” she told reporters, seeming to distance herself from Germany’s policy of no new borrowing. Though conceding she did not know how the crisis would develop, Merkel said the risk was huge. “When the virus is out there, and the population has no immunity and no vaccination or therapy exists, then a high percentage - experts say 60 to 70% of the population - will be infected, so long as this remains the case,” she said.

That drew swift criticism from the Czech prime minister who said Merkel’s remarks could cause panic. Merkel said federalism did not mean anyone could evade responsibility, and that she would meet state premiers on Thursday to coordinate the coronavirus response.

Meanwhile, China also announced to allocate billions of dollars to cope with CVID-19 outbreak and also check deteriorating economy. While some vital industries in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic, were told they can resume work on Wednesday, a day after President Xi Jinping visited there for the first time since the outbreak began.

The city of 11 million has been in lockdown since late January but Xi’s visit signaled the tide was turning in the government’s favour as it fights to contain a virus that as of Tuesday had infected 80,778 people in China and killed 3,158. Wuhan accounts for nearly 10% of vehicles made in China and is home to hundreds of parts suppliers. Across the country, manufacturing is slowly returning to normal.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, said on Wednesday it would move to boost lending support for small companies hit hard by the coronavirus.

In Italy the death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus has jumped by 168 to 631, an increase of 36%, the Civil Protection Agency said on Tuesday, the largest rise in absolute numbers since the contagion came to light on Feb. 21.

The total number of cases in Italy, the European country hardest hit by the virus in Europe, rose to 10,149 from a previous 9,172, an increase of 10.7%.

Meanwhile, Gilgit-Baltistan reported its second coronavirus case on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the GB government, Faizullah Firaq, said. According to the spokesperson, the patient, a 14-year-old, hails from Skardu. They are under treatment at City Hospital in Skardu.

The confirmation takes the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Pakistan to 20. The first confirmed case in GB was of a 45-year-old woman, who arrived from Iran a few days to Gilgit before she was diagnosed.

Sindh has reported the most number of confirmed cases among the provinces, with Karachi the worst affected city so far with 15 of the total confirmed cases.

Iran on Wednesday reported 63 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, the highest single-day toll in the three weeks since the Islamic republic announced the first deaths from the outbreak.

The outbreak of the coronavirus in Iran is one of the deadliest outside China, where the disease originated. "Based on new lab results, we have identified 958 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in the country, bringing the total number of cases to 9,000," health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in a televised news conference. "Unfortunately in the past 24 hours, we have had reports of 63 deaths and overall 354 have lost their lives" to the virus, he added.

President Hassan Rouhani also called on people to limit their movements in order to contain the virus. "Movements must be reduced to the possible minimum, unless it is absolutely necessary," Rouhani said during a cabinet meeting, flanked by ministers wearing masks. "Everyone must pay attention to protocols and be careful so the virus´s spread can be contained," he added.

Separately, Iran´s foreign ministry expressed concern over the health of Iranian prisoners in the United States because of what it called President Donald Trump´s mismanagement of the coronavirus outbreak there. Spokesman Abbas Mousavi made the remarks after the United States demanded the release of American prisoners from virus-hit Iran. "We´re worried about the health of some Iranian prisoners taken hostage" in the US, he told a news conference that was held online because of the outbreak.

Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities are tracking around 5,000 citizens across the country believed to have been potentially exposed to the coronavirus at a religious event in the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

The contact tracing was initiated after neighboring Brunei reported its first case of coronavirus infection on Tuesday, a 53-year-old man who had attended the same event at a mosque between Feb. 27 and March 1, the ministry said in a statement.

“Based on preliminary information, the religious event involved an estimated 10,000 people from several countries including Malaysia,” the ministry’s Secretary-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said. “The health ministry urges all who had attended the event to cooperate with health officials to ensure COVID-19 does not continue to spread in their communities.”

Malaysia reported 20 new cases of coronavirus infection on Wednesday, bringing the cumulative tally to 149.