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More Than 100 000 Cases Of Coronavirus As Economies Hit Hard

Crossing more borders, the coronavirus has infected more than 100,000 people worldwide as it wove itself deeper into the daily lives of millions.

Serbia, Slovakia, Peru and Cameroon have announced their first instances of coronavirus infections.

The virus, which has killed nearly 3400 people, edged into more US states, popped up in at least four new countries and breached the halls of the Vatican. It forced mosques in Iran and beyond to halt weekly Muslim prayers, blocked pilgrims from Jesus' birthplace in Bethlehem and upended Japan's plans for the Olympic torch parade.

As markets dived anew, repercussions of the virus rattled livelihoods in the real economy, too.

"Who is going to feed their families?" asked Elias al-Arja, head of a hotel owners' union in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where tourists have been banned and the Church of the Nativity shuttered.

Image: Getty Images

At the White House, President Donald Trump signed a $US8.3 billion ($A12.5 billion) bill to fight the coronavirus and an official said Trump's administration was considering some type of support to hard-hit industries like travel and tourism.

In Geneva, the UN health agency said it had received applications for 40 possible virus tests, had 20 vaccine candidates in development and reported that numerous clinical trials of experimental drugs for the coronavirus were underway.

"We're all in this together. We all have a role to play," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, chief of the World Health Organisation, urging more global co-operation from the business world and solidarity with the poorest.

Yet even as COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, reached 90 countries, more than half of those who contracted the virus have now recovered. And it's retreating in China, where it first emerged, and nearby South Korea.

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Questions swirled around whether Iran could control its outbreak, as the number of reported infections jumped beyond 4700 on Friday, with 124 deaths.

Authorities in Iran were setting up checkpoints to limit travel, urging people to stop using paper money and had firefighters spray disinfectant on an 18km stretch of Tehran's most famous avenue.

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"It would be great if they did it every day," grocery store owner Reza Razaienejad said after the spraying. "It should not be just a one-time thing." The 100,000 figure of global infections is largely symbolic but dwarfs other major outbreaks in recent decades, such as SARS, MERS and Ebola.

The virus is still much less widespread than annual flu epidemics, which result in up to 5 million cases annual severe cases around the world and from 290,000 to 650,000 deaths annually, according to the WHO.

German airline Lufthansa said it and its subsidiaries will reduce their capacity over the coming weeks to as little as 50 per cent of the level before the coronavirus crisis hit, reflecting plummeting demand for air travel.

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The spectacle of a Grand Princess cruise ship ordered to stay at sea off the California coast over virus fears replicated ones weeks ago on the other side of the globe in which hundreds of people on the Diamond Princess cruise ship were infected even during a quarantine.

Thailand on Friday blocked a separate cruise ship from docking, worried because it carried dozens of passengers from Italy, which with 148 virus deaths is the centre of Europe's epidemic.

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In the US the number of cases passed 230, scattered across 18 states. COVID-19 is a flu-like illness that for most people causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough but can hit elderly or sick people much harder.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited a retirement home in Paris on Friday to reassure the elderly and health care workers about France's readiness to combat the virus, which has infected nearly 600 of its citizens. China reported 143 new cases on Friday and South Korea had 505 more cases, down from earlier daily tallies.

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The Netherlands reported its first virus death on Friday while Serbia, Slovakia, Peru and Cameroon announced their first infections.

Even Vatican City was hit, with the tiny city-state confirming its first case. WHO officials warned against having "false hopes" that the virus could fade away when warmer summer temperatures come to northern countries.

"Every day we slow down the epidemic is another day governments can prepare their health workers to detect, test, treat and care for patients," the WHO chief told reporters.

"Every day we slow down the epidemic is another day closer to having vaccines and therapeutics, which can, in turn, prevent infections and save lives."