Iran’s Neighbors Temporarily Close Their Borders: Coronavirus Updates From Feb. 23

Iran’s Neighbors Temporarily Close Their Borders: Coronavirus Updates From Feb. 23
A South Korean policeman wearing a mask to prevent the coronavirus (COVID-19) walks along the street in Seoul, South Korea, on Feb. 22, 2020. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Countries around the world are taking measures to try to stem the spread of the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, as the death toll continues to rise. There are now concerns about sustained outbreaks in several countries outside of China as they witness sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus.

This page has updates from Feb. 23. For updates from Feb. 24, click here.

Iran’s Neighbors Temporarily Close Their Borders

Iran’s neighbors each announced on Sunday that they are closing their border with Iran amid concerns of an outbreak in the country after it reported eight deaths—the most outside of China.

The Afghan government announced the closure on Sunday, along with a confirmation that the country now has detected its first three cases of COVID-19. The three patients had recently returned from Iran.

“To avoid spreading of coronavirus, the government of Afghanistan has stopped any contact with Iran via land or air. The borders are closed,” Afghanistan’s National Security website said.

Poultry products from Iran have also been suspended, the National Security office said.

Afghanistan has also closed its border with Iran’s neighbor Turkmenistan and banned entry for travelers from Armenia.

Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a Facebook post on Sunday that the country was closing its border with Iran for at least two weeks, as well as suspending air traffic.

There have been reports that Azerbaijan is also closing its border with Iran.

According to Radio Pakistan, the authorities in Pakistan have suspended travel as well as trade with Iran, closing the border crossing in Taftan, where it has also set up a 100-bed tent hospital for a potential emergency at the border.

Pakistan shares around 560 miles of border with Iran.

Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters on Sunday that the government has “temporarily halted” flights arriving from Iran, adding that all highways and railways would also be closed from 5 p.m. local time.

Meanwhile, Georgia has banned air traffic with Iran.

After banning air traffic with Iran on Friday, Kuwait announced on Sunday a new shipping ban for vessels coming from Iran to the country’s Shuaiba, Doha and Shuwaikh ports, according to local media. The Kuwaiti government has also urged its citizens not to travel to Iran for the time being.

Jordan has also implemented preventative measures, temporarily banning entry for citizens of Iran, as well as China and South Korea, or foreign nationals who have traveled through these countries.

“Jordanians who come from those countries will be placed in quarantine for two weeks to ensure they have not contracted the coronavirus,” he said.

Iraq said on Saturday night that it would extend an entry ban for any non-Iraqis coming from neighboring Iran. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi did not specify an end date.

Iraq’s health ministry said it has not yet to detected any cases in the country.

China Sees Growth of ‘Virus Bond’ Bailouts

War bonds were once sold by the United States government to finance operations during World War II. Today, China has “virus bonds.”

Chinese companies have issued more than 30 billion yuan in short-term, cheap bonds to finance “virus control” efforts since the beginning of February.

These bonds officially called “outbreak prevention and control bonds,” come with low-interest rates—between 2 to 4 percent—and a quick approval process by financial regulators.

Read more here.

Judge Blocks Federal Quarantine Plans for Site in Southern California

A federal judge has temporarily blocked the U.S. government from transferring as many as 50 people infected with the novel coronavirus to a local facility in Costa Mesa, California, after pushback by some local officials.

The officials argued that the federal government had provided no details about how neighborhoods in the Orange County city would be protected from COVID-19.

Costa Mesa filed a legal request Feb. 21 to halt the plan to hold 30 to 50 COVID-19 patients at the Fairview Developmental Center unless the facility is deemed suitable for quarantine, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“It is certainly not an isolated location,” Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley told the L.A. Times. “It would certainly be important for us as the lead city to know what the plan is.”
Read more here.

Coronavirus Hits Supply Chains, Saps US Business Activity

Coronavirus-related supply chain disruption is taking its toll on U.S. firms, with a recent survey of company purchasing managers showing a slump in business activity in February that’s being blamed in part on the spread of the disease.
“The deterioration was in part linked to the coronavirus outbreak, manifesting itself in weakened demand across sectors such as travel and tourism, as well as via falling exports and supply chain disruptions,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, which on Feb. 21 published its Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) report.
Read more here.

Hospitals in Beijing Report Transmission Within the Facility

At least two hospitals in Beijing have confirmed hospital-acquired infections of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 recently, while a private company has reported that a staff member who returned to work later diagnosed positive for the virus.
Read more here.

Number of Infections in Italy Rises to 155

The number of infections in Italy has continued to rise Sunday as authorities work to track down patient zero.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Rome, the infection rates are still “very low,” although the spike in infections over the last few days represents the biggest outbreak so far outside of Asia. Most cases remain concentrated in mainland China, with the second-highest incident rate in South Korea with at least 602 known cases. Japan also has a high number of infections due to 691 passengers on the mostly-evacuated Diamond Princess cruise ship becoming infected as well as 135 cases in the general population.

Meanwhile, Iran has reported the highest number of deaths due to the virus excluding China, with a total of eight.

The majority of cases in Italy have been reported from the Province of Lodi in the Lombardy region. Cases have also been reported in Veneto, Emilia Romagna, and Piemonte.

Officials in that region have cancelled school for the week. Officials have also asked universities in Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont, and Emilia Romagna to suspend classes until Feb. 29.

School trips have been suspended on a national level in an attempt to prevent any further spread of the virus.

The head of Italy’s civil protection service, Angelo Borrelli, said Sunday afternoon, “We have not yet been able to find it [patient zero]. It is, therefore, still difficult to formulate hypotheses on transmission.”

Italy Confirms Third Death

Italy confirmed the third coronavirus death on Sunday, identifying the case as an elderly cancer patient.

The elderly woman was stricken in Crema, located in Lombardy, where most cases have been reported in the country, said Italian officials.

“She had been hospitalized for a few days,” Giulio Gallera, Lombardy’s top health official, said in a news conference. “She’d been tested, and they already knew she had the coronavirus.”

As reported by the AFP news agency, Angelo Borrelli, the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, said that 152 people in Italy are confirmed to have contracted the virus, which causes the disease COVID-19 and has triggered lockdowns in China and South Korea.

Four Passengers Test Positive in the UK

UK Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty confirmed four passengers on the Diamond Princess have tested positive for COVID-19.
“Four further patients in England have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to thirteen,” the statement said.

“The virus was passed on in the Diamond Princess cruise ship, and the patients are being transferred to specialist NHS centers.”

Japan Confirms 773 Cases, Third Diamond Princess Passenger Dies

In Japan, where the government is facing growing questions about whether it is doing enough to counter the virus, authorities had confirmed 773 cases by early Sunday evening.

Most of them were from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo, the Diamond Princess. A third passenger, a Japanese man in his 80s, died on Sunday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed government agencies to urgently prepare medical provisions and draft a comprehensive plan to curb the spread.

Italy Cancels Venice Carnival as Total Cases Climb to 133

Scrambling to contain a rapidly rising number of new coronavirus infections in Italy, the largest amount outside Asia, authorities on Sunday stepped up measures to ban public gatherings. The ban included stopping Venice’s famed carnival events, which have drawn tens of thousands of revelers to a region that is now in the heart of the outbreak.

“The ordinance is immediately operative and will go into effect at midnight,'' announced Veneto regional Gov. Luca Zaia, whose area includes Venice, where thousands packed St. Mark’s Square to join in carnival fun. Carnival would have run through Tuesday. Buses, trains, and other forms of public transport—including boats in Venice—were being disinfected, Zaia told reporters. Museums, a top tourist draw at any time of the year, were also ordered to shut down after Sunday in Venice.

Authorities said three people in Venice have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, all of them in their late 80s, and who are hospitalized in critical condition. Zaia said among those infected was a nurse.

Nearly all of Italy’s 133 known cases are clustered in the north, at least 25 of them in the Veneto region.

Turkey, Iraq Restrict Iran Travel

As Iran raised its COVID-19 death total to eight and the number of cases to 43, Turkey and Iraq implemented travel bans.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that Turkey would close its border with Iran as a precautionary measure to halt the spread of the virus.

All highways and railways will be shut down starting at 5 p.m. Flights from Iran to Turkey will be suspended, he said.

Iraq, meanwhile, extended an entry ban for any non-Iraqis coming from the neighboring country.

“The prime minister ordered the ... halting of receiving travelers from Iran except for Iraqis,” Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s office said in a statement. Baghdad implemented the travel ban starting Thursday, and it was extended on Saturday, reported Asharq Al-Awsat.

South Korea Reports A Sixth Death Due to Virus

The death toll continues to rise in South Korea. The sixth death was a 59-year-old man who was confirmed to be infected on Wednesday and began receiving treatment, according to local media outlet Yonhap News Agency.
He died at the Dongguk University hospital in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province.

Iran Raises Death Toll to Eight, Infections to 43

Iran’s health ministry raised Sunday the death toll from the new virus to 8 people in the country, amid concerns that clusters there, as well as in Italy and South Korea, could signal a serious new stage in its global spread.

There were now 43 confirmed cases of the illness in Iran, Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told state TV.

Iran’s outbreak is centered mostly on the city of Qom but spread over the past few days to people in four other cities, including the capital, Tehran.

Across the country in 10 provinces, authorities shuttered schools for at least two days starting on Sunday, and Tehran University suspended classes and shuttered its dormitories for several days. Those who live in student dorms were asked to return to their home towns and continue lessons through the internet where possible.

Read more here. 

Total Cases in Italy Reach 115

Italy’s number of cases of the new coronavirus has jumped, with dozens of new confirmed cases reported in the northwestern region of Lombardy, which includes the country’s financial capital, Milan.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Italy had reached 115 on Sunday, state TV said following an announcement by Lombardy Gov. Attilio Fontana that there are 89 cases in his region. Most of those cases have popped up in small towns in the countryside, although Milan has at least one example.

Almost all of Italy’s cases are clustered in the north, with roughly a dozen towns on lockdown, meaning that people are not allowed to enter or leave the towns’ boundaries.

After Lombardy, the next hardest-hit region is Veneto, in the northeast, with at least 17 cases.

Read more here.

South Korea Reports 169 New Cases of Coronavirus, Two Deaths in One Day

South Korea on Sunday reported 169 new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and two new deaths.

Late Sunday afternoon, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) announced 46 new cases of the virus and the country’s fifth death. Earlier in the morning, the country reported its fourth death and a rise of 123 cases from the previous day.

Now, South Korea has a total of 602 known cases of coronavirus—a massive spike from Thursday when the country’s tally stood at 104. Since then, KCDC has reported triple digits in new cases daily: 100 on Friday and 229 on Saturday.

Read more here.

Japan Says 23 Diamond Princess Passengers Released Without Retesting for Coronavirus

Japan’s Ministry of Health has reported a mistake in its quarantine operation with the Diamond Princess cruise ship, saying that 23 passengers have been released after spending 14 days on the ship without being retested.

The retesting was needed to clear all passengers on the ship of the virus, given the ongoing infections among passengers throughout the quarantine period.

“I (feel deep) remorse that an operational mistake invited such a situation, and we would like to make sure that such a situation will never occur again,” health minister Katsunobu Kato said during a press conference Saturday.

A member of the media approaches a passenger after he walked out from the cruise ship Diamond Princess at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan, on Feb. 19, 2020. (Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha)
A member of the media approaches a passenger after he walked out from the cruise ship Diamond Princess at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan, on Feb. 19, 2020. (Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha)

Death Toll in Iran Climbs to Six

The death toll in Iran has climbed to six—the highest outside China.

The Islamic Republic has reported 28 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Minoo Mohraz, an Iranian health ministry official, said the virus “possibly came from Chinese workers who work in the city of Qom and traveled to China.” She did not elaborate. A Chinese company has been building a solar power plant in Qom.

There have been few virus cases in the Middle East so far. 13 cases have been confirmed in the United Arab Emirates, which is a popular tourist destination, one case in Egypt, and one case in Lebanon.

Iran’s neighbor Iraq, which has reported no cases of the virus, took measures to contain it by suspending visas on arrival for Iranian passport holders and direct flights between the two countries.

US Issues ‘Level 2’ Travel Warnings for South Korea and Japan

The U.S. CDC issued a ‘Level 2’ travel warning for both South Korea and Japan on Saturday after reports of sustained human-to-human transmission in both Asian countries.

The second-tier warning advises travelers to “exercise increased caution” when traveling in these countries.

“Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel,” the agency warning says.

Taiwan has also raised its travel advisories for both South Korea and Japan to ‘Level 2,’ travelers to take preventive action against infection when visiting the two neighboring countries.

The UK has issued a travel warning for Daegu and Cheongdo County in South Korea.
A medical professional is seen at a preliminary testing facility at the National Medical Center where patients suspected of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19) are assessed in Seoul, South Korea on Feb. 21, 2020. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
A medical professional is seen at a preliminary testing facility at the National Medical Center where patients suspected of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19) are assessed in Seoul, South Korea on Feb. 21, 2020. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Situation in South Korea ‘Grave’ as Confirmed Cases Surpass 500

South Korea is anxious amid confirmations of an increasing number of COVID-19 patients on Sunday as the nation’s total surpasses 500.

Saturday night saw South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun declared that the country was entering “a more grave stage” of the coronavirus outbreak. Still, he tried to provide some reassurance by saying that the government was making all-out efforts to contain further spread of the disease.

By Sunday morning, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 123 new cases of the novel coronavirus and one additional death.

Four people have now died in the country as at least 556 cases have been confirmed.

Over 300 cases have since been traced to Shincheonji Church in the Daegu after the 61-year-old female super-spreader who attended the church tested positive on Feb. 18. She was South Korea’s 31st confirmed case.

The KCDC said that more than 9,000 church members are now under self-quarantine.

A planeload of travelers from South Korea has also been denied entry by Israel. Israeli authorities were told that nine South Koreans, who had recently traveled in Israel as part of a 77-member group, had tested positive for the virus after returning home, Israeli media reported.

All travelers returning to Israel from both South Korea and Japan are now required to remain in isolation for two weeks after their arrival, according to the Israeli health ministry.

Japan currently has 135 confirmed cases of coronavirus and three deaths.

About 1,000 tourists from South Korea currently in Israel have been told to avoid public places, and to isolate themselves in their hotels, local media reported.

Frank Fang, Melanie Sun, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this article.
For updates from Feb. 22, click here.
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