So far 631 people have died from Covid-19 and 10,149 have been infected in just over two weeks in Italy. Meanwhile, Iran reports highest one-day death toll of 54 more people.

A tourist wearing a respiratory mask as part of precautionary measures against the spread of the new Covid-19 walks past the closed Colisseum monument in Rome on March 10, 2020, as Italy imposed unprecedented national restrictions on its 60 million people on March 10 to control the deadly coronavirus.
A tourist wearing a respiratory mask as part of precautionary measures against the spread of the new Covid-19 walks past the closed Colisseum monument in Rome on March 10, 2020, as Italy imposed unprecedented national restrictions on its 60 million people on March 10 to control the deadly coronavirus. (AFP)

Italy recorded 168 deaths on Tuesday from the novel coronavirus disease, its highest single-day toll to date, pushing the number of fatalities outside China to more than 1,000.

Overall in Italy, 631 people have died from the Covid-19 disease caused by the virus and 10,149 have been infected in just over two weeks.

Tuesday's toll raised the number of deaths outside China to 1,115, according to an AFP news agency tally.

The rapid spread of the new illness forced the Italian government on Tuesday to impose a nationwide ban on public gathering and travel restrictions until April 3.

It also puts Italy's health system under severe strain.

Health officials warned over the weekend that hospitals in the Lombardy region around Milan where three-fourths of the deaths have occurred were running out of beds.

The number of intensive care patients rose by 144 to 877 nationwide.

The overwhelming majority of the fatalities and infections were still being recorded in the north, with poorer southern regions largely spared.

Top government ministers have been warning for days that Italy might not be able to cope if the disease began to rapidly spread through the south.

Italy also imposed unprecedented national restrictions on its 60 million people on Tuesday to control the deadly coronavirus.

In a desperate bid to stem the spread, Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte went on television to announce the entire country would effectively be placed on lockdown from Tuesday.

"I am going to sign a decree that can be summarised as follows: I stay at home," Conte said.

"Travel must be avoided across the entire peninsula unless it is justified by professional reasons, by cases of need or for health reasons," he told Italians.

The spread of the new coronavirus is seen.
The spread of the new coronavirus is seen. (TRTWorld)

Iran death toll rises

Iran said on Tuesday that the new coronavirus killed 54 more people, raising the death toll to 291 amid 8,042 cases in the Islamic Republic.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour made the announcement in a televised news conference. It represented an 18 percent increase in deaths from the day before and 12 percent more confirmed cases.

Iran is the hardest-hit country in the Mideast by the new coronavirus, which sickens but largely doesn’t kill those afflicted.

Meanwhile, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran said on Tuesday he had asked Tehran to free all prisoners temporarily, saying it is "unfortunate and disturbing" to continue holding political prisoners amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Iran's judiciary chief said on Monday it had temporarily freed about 70,000 prisoners to help stem the spread of the coronavirus in jails.

But UN rapporteur Javaid Rehman said only those serving sentences of less than 5 years had been freed while political prisoners and others charged with heavier sentences linked to their participation in protest marches remained in jail.

Rehman also described the pace of the spread of the virus within Iran as "highly disturbing" and criticised containment measures carried out by the authorities.

"In my estimation, the state has done too little and too late," he said, in response to a question about Iran's handling of the outbreak.

China hints at progress

China signalled major progress in its own battle against the global epidemic.

The outbreak, combined with a crash in oil prices, has caused carnage on financial markets, erasing billions of dollars globally.

The World Health Organization warned there is a "very real" threat of a pandemic, but its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the planet was "not at the mercy" of an illness that has killed more than 4,000 people so far.

China showcased growing confidence that it has brought its own outbreak under control, with President Xi Jinping on Tuesday paying his first visit to the epicentre of the crisis – Wuhan.

Xi's unannounced trip comes as unprecedented quarantine measures that have sealed off Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province since late January appear to have paid off, with reported new infections dropping dramatically in recent weeks.

Chinese authorities announced just 17 deaths on Tuesday and the lowest number of new infections – 19 – since reporting began in late January.

While Hubei's 56 million people remain under quarantine, China is slowly easing restrictions in other parts of the country, with people returning to work and some schools reopening.

China's apparent progress stands in stark contrast to the rapid rise around the world, particularly in Italy, where more than 9,000 cases and 463 deaths have been reported.

Global chaos 

Worldwide more than 110,000 cases have been recorded in over 100 countries, with Canada reporting its first death.

It has disrupted global travel, cancelled sporting events and sent markets into meltdown.

Mongolia sealed off its capital and other cities on Tuesday after reporting its first case.

The death toll in France from the coronavirus outbreak rose to 30 from 25 a day earlier, the French public health authority said.

A German tourist was diagnosed with coronavirus in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Anadolu Agency reported. 

In Washington, President Donald Trump said he would propose "very substantial" economic measures to Congress on Tuesday, adding that the coronavirus has "blindsided the world."

However, some epidemiologists have accused the White House of unpreparedness.

Chief among the complaints has been the lack of testing caused by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developing its own flawed kits.

Uncertainty over the spread of the virus, coupled with a collapse in oil prices, created panic on the markets during what some dubbed "Black Monday," with the Dow Jones index losing more than 2,000 points.

There were signs of a slight recovery on Tuesday trade in Asia, with oil making back some of its losses and many stock markets in the green.

'Between 60 to 70 percent of Germans could contract virus'

Around 60 to 70 percent of the people in Germany could contract the novel coronavirus, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel told Parliament on Tuesday.

Merkel's statement  left parliamentary meeting startled and silent, according to a report by German newspaper Bild.

Germany has recorded almost 1,300 cases and announced two deaths related to the virus.

Turkey announces first confirmed case

Turkey's health minister confirmed the first novel coronavirus case in a man who had travelled from Europe.

Addressing a press conference in capital Ankara, Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the novel coronavirus patient has been placed in isolation and all his close relatives have been quarantined.

Koca said that all necessary precautions have been taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Turkey and that a single case poses no threat to the country.

UK health minister tests positive for coronavirus

British MP Nadine Dorries, a minister in the UK health department, has tested positive for coronavirus, she said in a statement on Tuesday.

"I can confirm I have tested positive for coronavirus... and have been self-isolating at home," said the Conservative MP.

France's Culture Minister Franck Riester earlier on Monday had also announced he had tested positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Business Reza Rahmani recovered from the novel coronavirus on Tuesday after receiving treatment at a hospital, according to media reports.

Poland cancels all mass events

Poland's government has decided to cancel all mass events due to the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday.

"At this morning's meeting we took a decision to call off all mass events," Morawiecki told a news conference.

The central European country of 38 million people has reported 17 cases of coronavirus. No one has died from the virus in Poland. 

The Chief of General Staff of Poland also tested positive for coronavirus,, the country’s defence ministry said.

“After returning from an army gathering in Germany, General Jaroslaw Mika has been diagnosed with the coronavirus,” said the defense ministry.

Officials who traveled with Mika have been quarantined and are in good condition, it added.

US lawmakers quarantine

The run on stock market prices has robbed Trump of one of his main talking points ahead of the November presidential election.

And there was further alarm after at least two Republican lawmakers who recently met with the president announced they were going into self-quarantine, fearing that they were exposed to the virus at a conservative conference.

Incoming White House chief of staff Mark Meadows also self-quarantined after he may have come into contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus.

There are concerns that the United States could become another hotspot for the virus, with at least 26 deaths and 605 confirmed infections so far. 

US officials say a woman became sick after travelling to Turkey. 

Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca clarified, an 86-year-old woman travelled through to Turkey in the last two weeks, flying from Tirana to Washington on a flight with an Istanbul connection.

On Monday, passengers were taken ashore from a cruise ship docked in California after at least 21 people on board were diagnosed with the virus.

South Korea reports fewer than 150 new cases

South Korea, one of the worst-affected countries in the coronavirus epidemic outside China, on Tuesday reported fewer than 150 new cases for the first time in two weeks.

A total of 131 infections were confirmed on Monday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said, taking the total to 7,513.

Three more people died, it added, with the toll rising to 54.

Each morning the South announces how many cases were diagnosed the previous day, with Monday's figure the lowest for a single day since late February and marking the fourth consecutive daily fall.

"The number of new Covid-2019 cases has been declining, so we can assess the rate of increase is coming to a standstill," said Yoon Tae-ho at the Central Disaster Management Headquarters.

But the outbreak was still spreading, he added, warning against any relaxation of containment efforts.

At least 50 people working at a call centre in Seoul or their relatives have tested positive for the virus, becoming the largest cluster in the capital, KCDC said, with officials urging individuals to maintain social distancing.

Lebanon records first coronavirus death

A Lebanese man died Tuesday from the novel coronavirus, a health ministry source said, marking the country's first recorded death from an epidemic that has infected 41 people nationwide.

The 56-year-old was receiving treatment in a state-run Beirut hospital, the ministry source told AFP, adding that he had recently returned from Egypt, where the virus has also spread.

The government has halted flights for non-residents from epicentres of the virus, shut schools and warned against public gatherings.

WTO staff member contracts virus

The head of the World Trade Organization said on Tuesday it would suspend all meetings until March 20 after one of its staff members contracted the new coronavirus.

"We take the health of secretariat staff and our members very seriously which is why we have taken this unprecedented step," Roberto Azevedo said in a statement. 

"We are monitoring the situation very closely and will take whatever measures are necessary to protect health and safety."

Source: Reuters