World News

Coronavirus Update: As Iran Hit By Spreading Virus, Neighbors Rush To Close Borders, Impose Travel Bans

Fuad Muxtarlı Media Roundup 24 February 2020
Coronavirus Update: As Iran Hit By Spreading Virus, Neighbors Rush To Close Borders, Impose Travel Bans

The spread of the coronavirus across the globe is a matter of time as new nations announce about the infection. So far, the Azerbaijani Health Ministry is firmly confirming the lack of the deadly virus in the country. However, some claim that this is highly unlikely and even if this is the case, precautions must be taken to prevent it at all. Time will show how reliable the reports coming from relevant bodies are.

In the meantime, Armenia on border with Iran has decided to close its almost only functional border with Iran as a precautionary measure. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that “the meeting on the prevention of coronavirus has just ended, and it was finally decided.

Interrupt land communication with Iran for 2 weeks;
With regard to air traffic, we do not introduce full restrictions;
Cargo turnover with Iran to carry out without restrictions, applying only special control in relation to drivers;
No restrictions upon the return of citizens of Armenia and Iran to their homelands;
Within 2 weeks, maintain information communication with a friendly Iran to obtain information on the extent of the spread of coronavirus in order to clarify further steps;

The Georgian government temporarily suspended flights with Iran and restricted movement between the two countries. For its part, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has also recommended own citizens exercise maximum caution when visiting Iran, taking into account the spread of coronavirus in this country, and contact the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran or the consulate-general in Tabriz in case of problems.

Iran's Coronavirus Death Toll On The Rise

Reports coming from nations around Iran are upsetting and painful as the danger of the coronavirus spreading new states is a matter of time. After Iran announced the deaths of 12 people from the virus, news came from Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and others about the spread of the deadly virus.
Some 47 people are infected with coronavirus across the country, and, regrettably, 12 people have died of the disease as of today," Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said on February 24.

Speaking on February 23 on state TV, Iran’s Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said a total of 15 new confirmed cases had been reported across the country, bringing the overall figure to 43. Jahanpur gave no details on the new deaths, including when they occurred. But Iranian media earlier cited Abbas Mousavi, the head of the Medical Science University in the northern province of Mazandaran, as saying that an unnamed person who had travelled from the capital, Tehran, to the regional capital of Tonekabon had died.

Iran has reported more fatalities from coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, than any other country aside from China. In all, there are 785 suspected cases across Iran, the Health Ministry reported on February 22 - a number is likely to grow. Jahanpour earlier was quoted by the DPA news agency as saying that of the newly detected cases, two were in Tehran, and eight were in the city of Qom, 120 km south of Tehran.

Authorities have steadily imposed more restrictions on public spaces and travel, in an effort to curtail the disease's spread. Religious pilgrimages to neighboring Iraq have been suspended, one unnamed official told the semi-official Fars news agency. The Health Ministry has closed schools and universities in several cities, along with movie theaters. Theater and concert events have been cancelled. Professional soccer games will be played as planned but without spectators.

Turkey, Pakistan, and Armenia temporary closed their land borders with Iran due to coronavirus on February 23, while Afghanistan suspended travel to and from Iran. An emergency situation has been declared in the Pakistani province of Balochistan, which has a long frontier with Iran. Officials in Balochistan suspended almost all traffic across the Taftan border crossing with Iran.

In Ankara, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that eight people have been refused entry to Turkey from Iran since February 21, when Turkey introduced health checks on travellers at frontier crossings. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced on Facebook that Yerevan will close the border with Iran for two weeks and suspend flights. Pashinyan said his cabinet will hold a meeting on February 24 to discuss further measures.
Afghanistan’s Health Ministry said that three suspected cases of coronavirus have been reported in the western province of Herat. The three Herat residents had returned from the city of Qom in neighboring Iran and are currently in "isolation," the ministry said.

Jordan also on February 23 began denying entry of non-Jordanians coming from Iran. Infected travellers from Iran already have been discovered in Canada and Lebanon. Earlier in the week, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia suspended most flights to Iran.

In China, where the virus emerged, more than 2,300 people have died. Another large cluster has been detected in South Korea, whose president raised the nation's alert to its "highest" level on February 23 after the number of infections nearly tripled over the weekend to 556.

Global spread of coronavirus raises pandemic fears

Fears mounted on 24 February that the coronavirus outbreak in China will grow into a pandemic with disruptive and deadly consequences for countries around the world, after sharp rises in infections in South Korea, Italy and Iran. A surge of infections outside mainland China triggered steep falls in Asian share markets and Wall Street stock futures as investors fled to safe havens such as gold. Oil prices tumbled and the Korean won fell to its lowest since August.

“The news flow from the weekend has changed the game somewhat, where the focus is much more on the threat of an outbreak outside of China,” said Chris Weston, head of research at broker Pepperstone. South Korea’s fourth-largest city Daegu grew increasingly isolated as the number of infections there increased rapidly, with Asiana Airlines and Korean Air suspending flights to the city until 9 March and 28 March respectively.

In Europe, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said he would talk with his European counterparts soon to discuss how best to cope with a possible epidemic in Europe, after Italy reported a third death from the flu-like virus and 150 infections, from just three before Friday.

“Tonight there is no epidemic in France. But there is a problematic situation at the door, in Italy, that we are watching with great attention,” Veran told a news conference. Italy sealed off the worst-affected towns and banned public gatherings in much of the north, including halting the carnival in Venice, where there were two cases, to try to contain the biggest outbreak in Europe.
Austria suspended train services over the Alps from Italy for about four hours after two travellers showed symptoms of fever. The train carrying about 300 passengers from Venice, Italy, to Munich in Germany was allowed to continue its journey after the two tested negative for the new coronavirus. Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said a coronavirus task force would meet on Monday to discuss whether to introduce border controls with Italy.

South Korean authorities reported a seventh death and another 161 new cases on Monday, taking the total to 763. Of the new cases, 115 were linked to a church in Daegu. Seoul raised its infectious disease alert to its highest level on Sunday after the southeastern city and nearby Cheongdo county – where infections surged last week – were designated “special care zones”.
The escalation in the alert level allows the government to send extra resources to Daegu and Cheongdo, forcibly prevent public activities and order the temporary closure of schools. “The government will be all-out to minimize economic impact and make sure the recovery momentum would not be interrupted as we prepare for the worst-case scenario,” South Korean Vice Finance Minister Kim Yong-beom said on Monday.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan imposed travel and immigration restrictions on the Islamic Republic. Outside mainland China where it originated late last year, the outbreak has spread to some 28 other countries and territories, with a death toll of around two dozen, according to a Reuters tally.

Severe and complex

China reported 409 new cases on the mainland, from 648 a day earlier, taking the total number of infections to 77,150 cases as of 23 February. The death toll rose by 150 to 2,592.

The vast majority of infections were again in Hubei province, further evidence that efforts to contain the outbreak in China are working and enabling four other provinces to lower their coronavirus response measures. Hubei and its capital, Wuhan, remain virtually cut off from the outside world but factories, businesses and construction sites are slowly reopening in the rest of China after an extended Lunar New Year holiday.

“At present, the epidemic situation is still severe and complex, and prevention and control work is in the most difficult and critical stage,” President Xi Jinping said on Sunday. Xi highlighted the importance of fighting the epidemic in the capital Beijing, which requires people arriving from elsewhere in China to be quarantined at home for 14 days.

He said it would have a relatively big, but short-term impact on the economy and Beijing would step up policy adjustments to help cushion the blow. The G20 grouping of the world’s top economies called on Saturday for a coordinated response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The IMF predicted the virus would lower China’s growth this year to 5.6% and shave 0.1 percentage points from global growth. 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. British authorities said four people evacuated from the ship had tested positive for the virus after being flown to Britain.