Mainland China reports 327 new cases, the lowest since January 23, taking its tally to more than 78,800 cases with almost 2,800 deaths. Meanwhile, WHO says outbreak "getting bigger," warns of spread worldwide.

An Iranian man wears a protective mask to avoid contracting coronavirus, as he sits in the bus in Tehran, Iran on February 25, 2020.
An Iranian man wears a protective mask to avoid contracting coronavirus, as he sits in the bus in Tehran, Iran on February 25, 2020. (Reuters)

Iran on Friday reported eight new deaths from coronavirus, taking its overall toll to 34, as the number of infections jumped again in the country, which is among the worst-hit countries.

An additional 143 cases have been detected over the past 24 hours, raising the total number of confirmed infections to 388, Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said.

It is the highest number of new cases for a single day since Iran announced its first confirmed infections on February 19 in the Shia shrine city of Qom.

Among the new cases, 64 were in the capital Tehran, while the number of provinces hit by the outbreak rose to 24, Jahanpour said.

One of Iran's seven vice presidents, Massoumeh Ebtekar, and Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi are among several senior officials who have been infected.

Iran cancelled Friday prayers in the capitals of 23 of Iran's 31 provinces because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Iran is the only country in the Gulf region that has reported deaths from the coronavirus, which has spread from China, but people have been infected in Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

As the list of countries hit by the illness edged toward 60 with Belarus, Lithuania, New Zealand, Nigeria, Azerbaijan and the Netherlands reporting their first cases, the threats to livelihoods were increasingly eyed as warily as the threats to lives.

South Korea

South Korea has reported 315 more virus cases, bringing its increase for the day to 571 and a total number of infections to 2,337. 

For the first time, its daily increase surpassed that of China, which reported 327 new cases. 

The southeastern city of Daegu and surrounding areas accounted for most of its new infections. 

Officials have been mobilising public health tools to contain the outbreak to the Daegu area, but the gradual increase of cases elsewhere has raised concern that authorities are losing control of the virus. 

The death toll remains at 13.

Meanwhile, K-pop megastars BTS cancelled four Seoul concerts due in April.

The seven-piece boyband — currently one of the biggest acts in the world — had scheduled four gigs at the capital's Olympic Stadium to promote their new album "Map of the Soul: 7."

It was "impossible at this time to predict the scale of the outbreak," it said, creating so much uncertainty it was "unavoidable" the shows were cancelled "without further delay."

China reports drop in cases

China reported 44 more deaths from the novel coronavirus epidemic on Friday and 327 fresh cases, the lowest daily figure for new infections in more than a month.

The death toll now stands at 2,788 in mainland China, according to the National Health Commission.

The number of fatalities — which is up from the 29 reported on Thursday — were all in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, except for two deaths in Beijing.

In total, 78,824 people have now been infected with the Covid-19 strain in the mainland.

Friday's figure was the lowest rise in new cases since January 24, when 259 new infections were reported.

The general decline in new infections in China comes as infections in other countries gather pace, with the World Health Organization warning that the coronavirus epidemic was at a "decisive point."

Even China is now worried about importing cases and has ordered people arriving in Beijing from affected countries to go into a 14-day self-quarantine.

New Zealand bars travellers from Iran 

New Zealand said on Friday that it was placing temporary restrictions on incoming travellers from Iran as a precautionary measure to protect against the coronavirus outbreak.

“This means people will not be able to travel from Iran to New Zealand and anyone who has been in Iran in the last 14 days will need to self-isolate,” Health Minister David Clark said in a statement.

New Zealand also decided not to allow any exemptions for overseas students from China to enter the country.

Clark added there would be an increased presence of health staff that would meet direct international flights landing at New Zealand airports from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand.

Tokyo Disney parks closed

The operator of Tokyo's two Disney resorts, Disneyland and DisneySea, said on Friday the parks would be closed for around two weeks on fears over the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

"Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea have decided to proceed with an extraordinary closure from Saturday, February 29, 2020, through Sunday, March 15" after the government urged measures to limit the spread of the virus, the operator said in a statement.

The operator Oriental Land said it currently hoped to resume operations from March 16.

Hotel bookings drop in Italy

In Italy, where the count of 650 cases is growing, hotel bookings were dropping and Premier Giuseppe Conte raised the specter of recession.

Shopkeepers like Flavio Gastaldi, who has sold souvenirs in Venice for three decades, wondered if they could survive the blow.

Some saw dollar signs in the crisis, with 20 people in Italy arrested for selling masks they fraudulently claimed provided complete protection from Covid-19. 

Police said they were selling them for as much as 5,000 euros ($5,520) each.

Outbreak 'getting bigger'

The rapid rise in coronavirus raised fears of a pandemic on Friday, with five countries reporting their first cases, the World Health Organization warning it could spread worldwide and Switzerland cancelling the giant Geneva car show.

World share markets crashed again, winding up their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis and bringing the global wipeout to $5 trillion.

"The outbreak is getting bigger," WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva.

"The scenario of the coronavirus reaching multiple countries, if not all countries around the world, is something we have been looking at and warning against since quite a while."

Switzerland joined countries banning big events to try to curb the epidemic, forcing cancellation of next week's Geneva international car show, one of the industry's most important gatherings.

The United States asked its military in Saudi Arabia to avoid crowded venues including malls and cinemas.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies