The US recorded its first death from coronavirus yesterday, when a man in his 50s died in a care home. A further 21 residents were confirmed to be suffering from the virus, with four of them said to be very ill.
The outbreak at the home in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland led to the vice president, Mike Pence, announcing a ban on travel to Iran and stronger warnings on travel to Italy and South Korea.
The US president, Donald Trump, said that there were likely to be more cases and he would consider additional restrictions, including closing the US border with Mexico in response to the virus’s spread.
The victim was said to be of a high medical risk and there was no evidence he had travelled abroad or had links to anyone who had. Washington state health officials said other residents and some staff were also showing “some sort of symptoms” but had not yet been diagnosed.
About 60 cases have been confirmed in the US. Trump said healthy Americans should recover if they contract the virus, as he tried to reassure Americans and global markets. “We’ve taken the most aggressive actions to confront the coronavirus,” he said. “Our country is prepared for any circumstance. There is no reason to panic at all.”
Elsewhere, Ireland reported its first case of the virus, as did Ecuador and Luxembourg. Mexico reported two more cases, bringing the country’s total to four, and Brazil announced its second.
France and Italy imposed strict bans on public gatherings as numbers of coronavirus cases rose dramatically in both countries.
One of the first casualties of the ban was Sunday’s Paris half-marathon, which has been cancelled, while a major four-day trade show in Cannes for property investors has been put back from March to June.
In Italy, five key football matches were postponed this weekend. The games include the crunch top-of-the-table Serie A clash between Inter Milan and Juventus. The matches had been scheduled to take place behind closed doors after the Italian government banned public gatherings as part of its campaign to try to slow the spread of Covid-19. But now Serie-A officials have decided the matches will be played on 13 May – when fans will be able to attend.
Nearly 900 people have tested positive for the virus in Italy, and authorities in northern regions – where Europe’s worst outbreak is centred – on Saturday ordered that schools and universities should stay closed for a second week, dashing any hopes of a swift return to normality.
In France, authorities on Saturday reported 16 new cases of the virus. “All public gatherings of more than 5,000 people in a confined space are temporarily banned,” health minister Olivier Véran announced.
He also advised people to cut back on la bise – the custom of greeting friends and relatives with kisses. As of Saturday, France had registered 73 virus cases, up from 57 on Friday and of these, 59 people remained in hospital, two had died and 12 had recovered, Véran added.
More than 50 countries have now reported cases, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has upgraded the global risk of the outbreak to “very high” – its top level of risk assessment.
Globally, there are an estimated 85,000 cases, and there have been 2,900 deaths. The virus has been detected in 58 countries, although the WHO said on Friday that there was still a chance of containing it if its chain of transmission were broken.
Azerbaijan said on Saturday that it had closed its border with Iran for two weeks. Iran’s death toll – 43 out of 593 confirmed cases – is the highest in the world apart from China, and puts the country’s death rate from the disease at more than 7%, much higher than other countries. That has worried experts at the WHO, who fear Iran may be under-reporting the number of cases now affecting it.
South Korea has also reported a “critical moment” in its battle against transmission, after 813 new cases were detected in the country in a single day, while the Japanese island of Hokkaido announced a three-week state of emergency, part of a number of measures to slow the outbreak.
• The main image used on this article was changed on 2 March 2020 to more accurately reflect the text.