New Delhi: All primary schools in the national capital on Thursday have been shut until the end of March and new restrictions on travel from Italy and South Korea imposed as part of efforts to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Delhi’s deputy chief minister announced in a tweet that all primary schools in the capital would be closed to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus. The total of confirmed coronavirus cases in India rose to 29 on Wednesday, from six early this week.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has postponed a trip to Brussels for a summit with EU leaders later this month. “Both sides have agreed that due to health authorities advising against travel between regions, it would be wise to reschedule the summit to a later, mutually convenient date,” foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told a news conference.
Travellers that have visited Italy or South Korea will now be required to show a certificate of having tested negative for coronavirus, a temporary measure to be enforced from next week, a government statement said.
India has also suspended most visas issued to nationals of Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran and China, as well as suspending visas of any travellers who had been to those five countries since February.
California declares emergency, as death toll rises in U.S.
The US death toll from coronavirus infections rose to 11 on Wednesday as new cases emerged around New York City and Los Angeles, while Seattle-area health officials discouraged social gatherings amid the nation’s largest outbreak. The first California death from the virus was an elderly person in Placer County, near Sacramento, health officials said. The person had underlying health problems and likely had been exposed on a cruise ship voyage between San Francisco and Mexico last month.
It was the first coronavirus fatality in the United States outside of Washington state, where 10 people have died in a cluster of at least 39 infections that have emerged through community transmission of the virus in two Seattle-area counties.
Hours after the person’s death was announced, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency in response to the coronavirus, which he said has resulted in 53 cases across the nation’s most populous state. “The State of California is deploying every level of government to help identify cases and slow the spread of this coronavirus,” Newsom said in a statement.
Seattle health authorities urged a number of measures for curbing further spread of the disease, including recommendations for anyone aged 60 and older and individuals with underlying chronic health problems or compromised immunity to stay home and away from large gatherings and public places. They also urged companies to allow their employees to work from home as much as possible, stagger shifts to ease commuter congestion on public transportation and avoid large work-related gatherings.
“The distancing measures that we’re recommending are essential because we need to slow the spread of the disease to the point where we are able to continue to handle the load,” said Patty Hayes, the public health director for Seattle and King County. A growing number of U.S. companies are adopting such steps. On Wednesday Microsoft Corp asked its employees in the Seattle region near its headquarters and in the San Francisco Bay Area to work from home if possible until March 25.
U.S. lawmakers reached bipartisan agreement on an $8.3 billion emergency bill to help fund efforts to contain the virus. The bill garnered enough votes to pass in the House of Representatives. More than $3 billion would be devoted to research and development of coronavirus vaccines, test kits and therapeutics. There are currently no approved vaccines or treatments for the fast-spreading illness.
The administration is working to allow laboratories to develop their own coronavirus tests without seeking regulatory approval first, U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar said. (Inputs from news agencies)
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