Coronavirus Briefing Update

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The coronavirus death toll climbed to seven in Italy on Monday and several Middle East countries were dealing with their first infections, sending markets into a tailspin over fears of a global pandemic even as China eased curbs with no new cases reported in Beijing and other cities.

While health experts have expected limited outbreaks beyond China, the rapid acceleration of cases in Italy going from three on Friday to 220 on Monday is concerning, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.

The World Health Organisation also warned that since the emergence of COVID-19 we have seen instances of public stigmatization among specific populations, and the rise of harmful stereotypes.  The USA will seek funds to fight the Coronavirus epidemic.

China – South Korea

China reported 508 new cases and another 71 deaths, 68 of them in the central city of Wuhan, where the epidemic was first detected in December. The updates bring mainland China’s totals to 77,658 cases and 2,663 deaths.

South Korea now has the second-most cases in the world with 893 and has had a near 15-fold increase in reported infections in a week, as health workers continue to find batches in the southeastern city of Daegu and nearby areas, where panic has brought towns to an eerie standstill.

Of the 60 new cases reported by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 49 came from Daegu and the surrounding areas of North Gyeongsang province.

The country also reported its eight fatality from COVID-19, a man in his 60s who was linked to a hospital in Cheongdo, where a slew of infections has been reported among patients at a mental ward.

The government has vowed to full mobilized public health tools to contain the outbreak to the region surrounding Daegu, but says it isn’t considering restricting travel. All Daegu citizens exhibiting cold-like symptoms, estimating around 30,000 people, will be tested for the virus. The country is also restricting exports to deal with nationwide shortages in facemasks.


The death toll in Europe’s largest coronavirus outbreak rose to seven on Monday and new cases climbed above 220 as Italy shut down much of its wealthy north to curb the disease’s spread.

Italian shares tumbled more than 5%, the biggest daily drop in almost four years, on worries the flare-up could cause a recession, while worried residents emptied supermarket shelves to stock up on essentials.

Authorities in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, the industrial and financial heartlands of Italy, shut schools, universities, museums and cinemas for at least a week.

Paolo Da Pino, president of the Lega Serie A, has revealed that the league has sent an official request to the Italian government to ask that matches be played without fans inside stadiums rather than issuing postponements.

“We have sent an official request for the Inter-Ludogrets Europa League game to be held behind closed doors next Thursday and we are looking forward to a positive response soon,” announced Italian FA (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina at a press conference on Monday.

On Monday, the Italian Health Minister announced that the matches will be held between closed doors as it extended the decree of to other regions, that now covers Lombardia, Veneto e Piemonte Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Liguria and Emilia Romagna

The Milan stock exchange’s FTSE Mib index closed 5.4% down on 23,427 points on Monday amid fears of the economic impact of the coronavirus emergency. Some 30 billion euros of share value went up in smoke.

The spread between Italian and German 10-year bond yields closed 11 points up on 145 basis points, with a yield of 0.96%, amid coronavirus fears Monday.

The coronavirus emergency will push Italy into recession, economists are forecasting.

Shops in Northern Italy were also emptied as people started to fear for the provision of goods.

Meanwhile an Italian Tourist in Teneriffe was tested positive for the CoVid-19 according to local media reports.

Coronavirus in Italy

Health authorities were frustrated by their failure to identify how the outbreak in the north had started.

Doctors say the focal point was the cluster of now closed-off towns in Lombardy, with the disease spreading fast as the first patients sought hospital attention.

However, none of the initial patients had been to China and officials do not know who brought the infection to the area.

“By now, identifying ‘patient zero’ in statistical terms would be a great satisfaction … but you understand that the situation has evolved and must be handled completely differently,” said Lombardy official Giulio Gallera.


U.S. President Donald Trump will seek $2.5 billion (£1.93 billion) from Congress to fight the coronavirus epidemic and U.S. and South Korean militaries are considering scaling back joint training as the virus spreads in Europe and the Middle East.

The White House said more than $1 billion of the requested virus budget would go toward developing a vaccine, while other funds would be used for therapeutics and the stockpiling of personal protective equipment such as masks.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries said on Monday they may cut back joint training due to mounting concerns about the spreading coronavirus, in one of the first concrete signs of the virus’s fallout on global U.S. military activities.

The disclosure came during a visit to the Pentagon by South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, who acknowledged following talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper that 13 South Korean troops had tested positive for the virus.

“We do regard this situation as a serious one,” Jeong told a news conference, adding he had suspended military vacations and off-base leave.

“We have also limited their movement across the nation.”

The surge of cases outside mainland China triggered sharp falls in global markets as investors fled to safe havens. European equities markets suffered their biggest slump since mid-2016, gold soared to a seven-year high and oil tumbled 4%.

The Dow Jones Industrials and S&P 500 posted their biggest one-day percentage drops in over two years and Nasdaq had one of its worst days since December 2018. All three indexes closed down more than 3% after notching record highs last week on optimism the coronavirus would not seriously hurt global economies.

New York Stock Exchange

Iran – Turkey 

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in a phone conversation discussed the latest situation of the coronavirus and ways to counter it on phone late on Monday.

They also stressed the need for maintaining transactions while observing all sanitary and preventive measures.

Meanwhile, Turkish Health Minister Fakhruddin Koja said on Monday that Turkey will stand by Iran and will provide all facilities in fighting coronavirus.

Referring to the closure of the borders of Turkish Railways and Airways with Iran, he added that following outbreak of the coronavirus in Iran, Turkey has decided to temporarily block its borders.



Port workers on Monday downed tools amid concerns that stevedores coming from Italy are not being adequately screened for potential new coronavirus infections.

Operations were suspended on Monday after port workers expressed concern those coming from Italy were not being subjected to proper screening.

Malta Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises CEO Abigail Mamo said that operations resumed some time later after port authorities agreed to meet with health authorities to discuss the matter.

But operations were halted again for a second time later in the day, as concerns about screening procedures continued to worry workers.


Seven people have been confirmed with coronavirus in Victoria. Three passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship repatriated to Victoria are among the state’s seven confirmed cases, Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said on Tuesday. People who have been in mainland China in the past fortnight still must self-isolate for 14 days after leaving the Asian nation.


British holidaymakers returning from coronavirus-hit parts of Italy will be told to “self-isolate,” in an escalation of measures to combat the spread of the deadly virus. Ireland and Israel also issued travel advice against visiting Italy regions where the Coronavirus has struck.


The World Health Organisation warned that since the emergence of COVID-19 we have seen instances of public stigmatization among specific populations, and the rise of harmful stereotypes. Stigmatization could potentially contribute to more severe health problems, ongoing transmission, and difficulties controlling infectious diseases during an epidemic.

Stigma occurs when people negatively associate an infectious disease, such as COVID-19, with a specific population.

In the case of COVID-19, there are an increasing number of reports of public stigmatization against people from areas affected by the epidemic. Unfortunately, this means that people are being labelled, stereotyped, separated, and/or experience loss of status and discrimination because of a potential negative affiliation with the disease. Given that COVID-19 is a new disease, it is understandable that its emergence and spread cause confusion, anxiety and fear among the general public. These factors can give rise to harmful stereotypes.Stigma can:

  • Drive people to hide the illness to avoid discrimination
  • Prevent people from seeking health care immediately
  • Discourage them from adopting healthy behaviours

Such barriers could potentially contribute to more severe health problems, ongoing transmission, and difficulties controlling infectious diseases during an infectious disease outbreak. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), UNICEF and the WHO are developing community-based guides and global campaigns to thwart the effects of stigma on people and the COVID-19 response.


During previous outbreaks due to other coronavirus (Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), human-to-human transmission occurred through droplets, contact and fomites, suggesting that the transmission mode of the COVID-19 can be similar.

The basic principles to reduce the general risk of transmission of acute respiratory infections include the following:

  • Avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.
  • Frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment.
  • Avoiding unprotected contact with farm or wild animals.
    People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands).
  • Within health care facilities, enhance standard infection prevention and control practices in hospitals, especially in emergency departments.

WHO / ANSA / IRNA / FORBES / Times of Malta / AP 

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