WHO upgrades global risk of virus spread to highest level

GENEVA: The UN health agency on Friday upgraded the global risk from the new coronavirus to its highest level, saying the continued increase in cases and countries affected was “clearly of concern”.
“We have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high at global level,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.
“We do not see evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities. As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing this virus,” he said.
“The key to containing this virus is to break the chain of transmission,” he said, emphasising the importance of individuals taking precautions to stop contagion.
“Our greatest enemy is not the virus itself, it’s fear, rumours and stigma and our greatest assets are facts, reason and solidarity,” he said. Tedros also said more than 20 vaccines were in development globally and several treatments were in clinical trials with results expected “in a few weeks”.

DEATHS IN IRAN RISE TO 34
The number of victims of the Covid-19 disease in Iran has increased from 26 to 34, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told a press conference on Friday.
According to Jahanpur, a total of 388 people — 143 more than the previous day — from different parts of the country had tested positive for the virus. In the capital Tehran alone, 64 more people have been infected in the last 24 hours, according to Jahanpur.
At the same time, 73 patients were released from hospital after recovering, the spokesman said.
However, experts assume the number of infected people to be much higher.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his country is not currently engaged in hostilities against Iran and has “made offers” to Tehran on technical assistance to deal with the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
“We have made offers to the Islamic republic to help,” Pompeo said, as lawmakers pressed him about the global response to the virus, in a hearing in Congress focused on Iran.
Elsewhere in the Gulf region, the Kuwaiti Health Ministry on Friday confirmed  two more coronavirus cases, raising the total of infections in the country to 45.
Kuwait has already announced closing schools and universities for two weeks in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading.
Bahrain also confirmed three new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 36. The neighbouring United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, imposed quarantine measures at two hotels in the capital Abu Dhabi, after two Italian guests tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The two are Italian cyclists who were taking part in the UAE Tour cycling race. Others who interacted with the two cyclists were also isolated at home, the Abu Dhabi health department said in a statement. Organisers also decided to cancel the final two stages of the race.

SHIP PASSENGER DEAD
A British man who was on board a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo has died, Japan’s health ministry said on Friday.
The unidentified man’s death is the latest linked to infections on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where more than 700 other people tested positive for the illness.

FLIGHTS REDUCED
European airlines are reducing flights to Italy due to coronavirus as part of drastic cost-cutting in an industry rocked by fallout from the deadly outbreak. Big global carriers had already cancelled flights to China — including Air Canada, Air France-KLM, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta, Finnair, Lufthansa, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
— AFP/dpa