Coronavirus update: Italy overtakes China in COVID-19 death toll, grim statistics in Iran, royal tests positive, airline staff to become medics
Medical workers deliver an elderly coronavirus patient to the Gemelli Hospital, in Rome, Italy.
Italy now has more deaths from coronavirus than China, the Commonwealth Bank has warned the economic fallout will be greater than that of the GFC, and Americans have been urged not to travel anywhere overseas.
This story is regularly updated. You can also stay informed with the latest episode of the Coronacast podcast.
Italy overtakes China’s death toll
A total of 427 deaths were registered in Italy over the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide tally to 3,405.
By comparison, 3,245 people have died in China since the virus first emerged in the city of Wuhan late last year.
However, Italy has far fewer confirmed cases — 41,035 as of Thursday against 80,907 in China.
Italy’s outbreak did not come to light until it was first reported in the north of the country on February 21.
Hospitals in the country said they were being overwhelmed and the Government prepared to prolong emergency lockdown measures.
Coronavirus will have worse impact than GFC, bank warns
Commonwealth Bank boss Matt Comyn has warned the fallout from the spread of the coronavirus will hit harder than the 2008 global financial crisis.
“There’s every reason to be concerned at this particular point in time,” Mr Comyn told ABC’s The Business.
On ABC News Breakfast this morning, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was asked, “Are we heading for a full-scale depression?”
This is how he responded:
“Well, what I can tell you is that the Australian economy has approached this health crisis, which is having a significant economic impact, from a position of strength. We are deploying all the means at our disposal to support the economy.”
Yesterday, the Reserve Bank slashed interest rates to a record low 0.25 per cent in an emergency move.
American urged not to go anywhere overseas
The United States has raised its travel alert for the entire world to its highest level, urging Americans not to go overseas and calling on those already abroad to return to the country immediately due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
“If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe,” the advisory said.
Australia announced similar travel advice earlier this week, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying people should “not go overseas” due to the “once-in-a-100-year-type event“.
Virus taking a life ‘every 10 minutes’ in Iran
Coronavirus is killing one person every 10 minutes in Iran, a health ministry spokesman said, as the death toll in the Middle East’s worst-affected country climbed to 1,284.
Kianush Jahanpur, the head of public relations and information in the ministry of Health and Medical Education, also tweeted that “some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour” in the country.
@drjahanpur: According to the latest data, almost every hour, 5 people in Iran (indecipherable) And die every ten minutes, as a result of the consequences
Iran’s deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said the total number of infections had reached 18,407 in the Islamic Republic.
The Government has ordered the closure of schools and universities and banned sports, cultural and religious gatherings. Iran has also closed four holy Shi’ite shrines.
The virus has also dampened Iran’s celebrations for the Nowruz New Year that begin on Friday.
Cannes Film Festival has been postponed
France’s Cannes Film Festival has postponed its 73rd edition.
The film festival, arguably the world’s most prestigious, was scheduled to take place May 12-23, but organisers say they are considering moving the festival to the end of June or the beginning of July.
“See you very soon,” the festival said in a statement.
Royal tests positive to virus
Prince Albert of Monaco has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first monarch to be diagnosed with the disease.
A statement from the palace said the 62-year-old was tested for the virus earlier this week, and that his health “does not inspire any concern”.
The prince will continue to work from his private apartments and will be closely monitored by his personal doctor and specialist from Monaco’s Princess Grace Hospital Centre.
Prince Albert urged Monaco’s 39,000 inhabitants to adhere to quarantine rules to halt the spread of the virus.
Airline staff to become health workers
Over a thousand laid-off SAS airline workers in Sweden are being offered fast-track healthcare training to help Sweden’s beleaguered healthcare system to fight the coronavirus.
SAS has laid off 10,000 staff, or 90 per cent of its workforce, temporarily as demand for flights has “more or less disappeared” after many European countries shut their borders or advised against travel.
Sophiahemmet University will run a three-day pilot for 30 people at the end of March with the hope of extending the course to hundreds more shortly.
“There are incredibly competent people who will be able to offer relief to our healthcare immediately after completing the training so that doctors and nurses can to an even greater extent devote themselves to caring for patients,” the principal at the university said.
The students will be trained in providing information to patients and their families, sterilising beds and equipment, and basic administrative duties.
In Australia, Qantas and Jetstar will temporarily stand down two-thirds of their 30,000 employees from late March until at least the end of May. Virgin Australia is grounding its international fleet.
Queen ‘ready to play part’, Invictus Games cancelled
The Queen has issued a message after leaving Buckingham Palace with Prince Phillip to take up residence at Windsor Castle, saying that she and her family “stand ready to play our part” to help tackle the coronavirus crisis.
“As Philip and I arrive at Windsor today, we know that many individuals and families across the United Kingdom, and around the world, are entering a period of great concern and uncertainty,” a statement from Buckingham Palace read.
The Queen said the nation’s history had been “forged by people and communities coming together to work as one”, and that she was “enormously thankful for the expertise and commitment of our scientists, medical practitioners and emergency and public services”.
“Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe. I am certain we are up to that challenge,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Invictus Games, created by Prince Harry to help sick and wounded war veterans, announced it would be postponing the event until next year.
It was due to take place in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in May.
African nations are new frontier
More African countries closed their borders on Thursday as the coronavirus’ local spread threatened to turn the continent of 1.3 billion people into an alarming new front for the pandemic.
The World Health Organisation’s Africa chief Dr Matshidiso Moeti said about 10 days ago, there were five countries with the virus.
Now, 34 of Africa’s 54 countries have cases, with the total close to 650. Dr Moeti said it was an “extremely rapid evolution”.
In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has barred attendance at bars and clubs, calling limiting “merry-making” a new front in virus prevention.
“Drunkards sit close to one another. They speak with saliva coming out of their mouth. They are a danger to themselves,” he said.
India to trial curfew
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked all citizens to observe a self-curfew on Sunday.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed to citizens to observe a self-curfew on March 22 from 7:00am to 9:00pm as part of a trial-run to test social isolation to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“If you think India has been spared and that everything is OK, and you will not be affected by the pandemic, then it is a wrong way of thinking,” he said.
In an address to the nation, Mr Modi also asked people to stand on their balconies on Sunday at 5:00pm and bang pots, applaud or ring bells to show their appreciation for those at the forefront including medical staff.
India has so far recorded just three deaths and 176 confirmed cases of coronavirus.