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People's Daily Online

Countries worldwide step up efforts against COVID-19 as cases grow

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 16:08, March 03, 2020

BEIJING, March 3 (Xinhua) -- As more confirmed cases of COVID-19 and fatalities from this contagious disease have been reported worldwide, many countries are stepping up efforts to contain a further spread of the disease.

Among some of the worst-hit countries, South Korea, which has 4,812 confirmed cases with 29 deaths as of Tuesday, has raised its four-tier virus alert to the highest level, and designated Daegu, the epicenter of the viral spread in the country, and its neighboring county to the south, Cheongdo, as "special care zones."

The country has urged its citizens to stay indoors over the weekend and warned of a "critical moment" in the coronavirus battle. President Moon Jae-in vowed Sunday to overcome the outbreak through national unity at home and in cooperation with neighboring countries.

As Japan reported more than 960 cases of infection by Monday, with 706 connected to the Diamond Princess cruise ship previously quarantined near Tokyo, many large public events have been canceled, as per the government's requirements, while popular theme parks like Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan have been temporarily shut.

The Japanese government has also asked all elementary, junior-high and high schools to temporarily close for around a month, and will provide financial assistance to parents taking leave from work to look after their children.

Hokkaido, one of Japan's worst-hit areas, declared a state of emergency on Friday.

As for Iran which reported 1,501 cases with 66 deaths as of Monday, educational centers have been shut down in cities and provinces seriously hit by the virus.

In the central Yazd city, the construction of a hospital for the exclusive use of treating COVID-19 patients kicked off on Sunday morning, and is expected to be finished within days.

Meanwhile, people showing symptoms have been barred from leaving the city of Qom, where the country's first two cases were reported. Iran's parliament also said Friday it would stop working temporarily.

Italy reported 1,835 confirmed cases with 52 deaths by Monday. Several towns in the country's most-infected Lombardy and Veneto regions have been locked down. Public gatherings are banned, and schools and universities are closed.

The Italian cabinet on Friday passed the first package of measures to support households, companies, and economic sectors in the worst-affected areas, and announced the second one on Sunday to reduce the impact on the overall domestic economy.

Apart from the worst-hit countries, many others around the world are also rolling out prevention and control measures.

The United States reported on Monday 31 more cases of COVID-19 in the country, bringing the total number to 91 with six deaths. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned the public of an inevitable outbreak of coronavirus within the country.

The country announced on Saturday additional travel restrictions on Iran and raised travel advisories for certain areas of Italy and South Korea over coronavirus concerns. U.S. President Donald Trump in a tweet on Sunday announced new screening procedures for people traveling from "high-risk countries."

Several counties in the U.S. state of California declared local emergency over COVID-19 last week. Washington State on Saturday declared a state of emergency after the first death caused by the disease in the United States was reported in the state. Florida State also declared a public health emergency on Sunday.

Within Europe, France had 191 confirmed cases with three deaths by Monday. The French government on Saturday banned all public gatherings with over 5,000 people in a confined space. In regions where over 10 cases of infections have been confirmed, schools remain closed until further notice and residents are recommended to limit their journeys.

Germany, which reported 150 confirmed infections as of Monday morning, considered it not necessary to close German borders and stressed that cancellation of major events or closure of companies was generally not advisable. The risk level of the infection in Germany was set at "moderate."

On Monday, as Britain reported a total of 40 cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired a meeting of the government's COBRA emergency committee, which finalized and signed off a battle plan containing a detailed set of countermeasures.

Downing Street also announced a "war room" being set up and running in the Cabinet Office, nerve center of the government, to roll out a public information campaign and respond quickly to cross-cutting issues.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced the establishment of a COVID-19 response team that comprises five European commissioners.

The European Center for Disease Prevention Control has leveled up the risk associated with COVID-19 infection for people in the European Union (EU)/European Economic Area and Britain to "moderate to high," while the EU insisted not closing the borders between its member states.

Australia, which has 33 confirmed cases, enacted its emergency response plan to tackle the outbreak last week, and is using a federal defence law to boost the production of gloves, masks and gowns.

Kenya, though not infected, has set aside adequate funds to facilitate the acquisition of protective gear and life-saving drugs required to manage possible COVID-19 cases.

By 1500 GMT on Monday, data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that there were 89,527 confirmed cases in 67 countries, and death cases had increased to 3,056.

The WHO on Friday raised the risk assessment of COVID-19 from "high" to "very high" at the global level.

At Monday's daily briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said "containment of COVID-19 is feasible and must remain the top priority for all countries," while emphasizing there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

The WHO has suggested a combination of public health measures such as rapid identification, diagnosis and management of the cases, identification and follow up of the contacts, infection prevention and control in health care settings, implementation of health measures for travelers, awareness-raising in the population and risk communication.

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