Middle East

Coronavirus: Cases jump in Iran and Italy

Medical staff in protective gear distribute leaflets to Iraqi passengers returning from Iran, 5 March 2020 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Coronavirus information is handed to Iraqi passengers returning from Iran

Iran has confirmed almost 6,000 coronavirus infections and 145 deaths as the number of cases worldwide passed 100,000, officials say.

A second MP was reportedly among those to have died in Iran, where health officials fear the number of cases may actually be much higher.

Europe's worst hit-country Italy also reported a steep rise in cases.

Leading Italian politician Nicola Zingaretti said on Saturday he had tested positive for the virus.

"I am fine but I will have to stay home for the next few days", the leader of Italy's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) said in a Facebook post.

The death toll in Italy has passed 230, with officials reporting more than 50 deaths in 24 hours. The number of confirmed cases jumped by more than 1,200 to 5,883 on Saturday.

Italy is expected to announce new measures to stop the spread of the disease, including a possible ban on people entering or leaving the region of Lombardy and 11 other provinces for non-urgent reasons, according to media reports.

The country has said it will start recruiting retired doctors in an effort to combat the escalating outbreak.

There have so far been nearly 3,500 coronavirus deaths recorded worldwide. The majority have been in China, where the virus originated in December.

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has called the spread of the virus "deeply concerning" and urged all countries to make containment "their highest priority".

In other developments:

  • A hotel used as a coronavirus quarantine facility in the Chinese city of Quanzhou collapsed
  • Pope Francis is to deliver Sunday's Angelus Prayer by livestream to avoid the usual crowds forming
  • A cruise ship with 3,533 passengers and crew is being held off the coast near San Francisco after 21 people tested positive for the disease. All on board are being tested
  • The US death toll rose to 19 as Washington state reported two more fatalities. The Governor of New York state Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency there as cases jumped from 44 on Friday to 76
  • Egypt has confirmed 33 new cases on a cruise ship on the River Nile, taking the total number of people infected on board to 45. Officials say those affected are Egyptian and are not displaying symptoms
  • The popular South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, has been cancelled
  • Malta, Serbia, Slovakia, Peru and Togo reported their first cases of the virus.

What's the latest on cases?

In Iran, 21 people are reported to have died as a result of coronavirus in the past day.

A spokesman for Iran's health ministry, Kianoush Jahanpour, said in a televised news conference on Saturday that more than 16,000 people were currently being tested in the country.

He added that 1,669 people with the illness had recovered.

The WHO's representative in Iran, Dr Christoph Hamelmann, said Iran was making tremendous progress at its hospitals, with facilities made available for treatment in every province.

Among other countries to report a rise in the total number of cases are: France (to 949); Germany (795); Spain (441); the UK (206); the Netherlands (188).

More than 80,000 people have been infected with coronavirus in China since its emergence in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province. Globally the number of infections stands at more than 100,000.

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