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COVID-19: Here’s what’s happening around the world Tuesday

The latest:

All travellers entering Beijing from the virus hotspots of South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy will have to be quarantined for 14 days, the deputy secretary general of the Beijing Municipal Government, Chen Bei, said on Tuesday.

Shanghai earlier said it would also compel visitors who had recently travelled to countries with “relatively serious virus conditions” to submit to 14 days of isolation, but it did not name the countries.

And travellers from countries with severe coronavirus outbreaks who arrive in Guangdong province, an economic and export powerhouse in the south, must undergo a 14-day quarantine, state media reported on Tuesday.

The developments in China come as concern mounts over the growing number of cases outside China. 

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing on Monday that the epidemics in South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan “are our greatest concern.”

Countries were urged to work toward containment but also plan for increased case numbers.

“Our message to all countries is — this is not a one-way street. We can push this virus back,” Tedros said Monday. “Your actions now will determine the course of the outbreak in your country.”

Read on for a sense of what’s happening with COVID-19 in Canada, the U.S. and some of the hardest-hit communities around the world.

Here’s what’s happening in Canada

On Monday, health officials announced that travellers landing in Canada from Iran would be asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the measure, which is similar to one already in place for travellers coming from Hubei, China, was put in place after new cases here were linked back to travel in Iran.

There are no plans for travel bans, Tam said.

“Viruses know no borders and we have to balance our public health measures knowing that they are never completely perfect.”

Health officials in Canada have reported 27 cases of COVID-19: 18 in Ontario, eight in British Columbia and one in Quebec.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, which is assessing risk as the outbreak develops, said the risk in Canada from COVID-19 is low.

Here’s what’s happening in the U.S.

Officials are scrambling to contain a coronavirus outbreak in Kirkland, Wash., near Seattle, where the cases have no known link to travel. 2:02

Seattle-area health officials confronting the nation’s first community coronavirus outbreak are planning new containment measures, ranging from possible school closings to temporary quarantine housing for mildly ill homeless patients.

The shift in strategy, with an emphasis on enlisting the public at large to take a more active role in curtailing the spread of the virus, came as health authorities announced on Monday that 18 Washington state residents had tested positive, including six who died.

“We’re pivoting to a more community-based approach, very similar to what we use for influenza epidemics, where we give people and schools and businesses good advice on how they can reduce their risks,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Seattle and King County’s public health agency, told reporters.

The number of cases in the U.S. — including travellers who are believed to have contracted COVID-19 abroad and those who were repatriated from areas like Wuhan — is over 100.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams, a leading public health official in the U.S., urged calm.

“Caution, preparedness, but not panic,” he said.

Here’s what’s happening in South Korea

South Korean soldiers in protective gear sanitize shacks at Guryong village in Seoul, South Korea Tuesday. President Moon Jae-in has ordered additional hospital beds and more face masks to be made available as the number of cases rose by 600 in the worst epidemic of any nation outside China. (Heo Ran/Reuters)

In South Korea, the number of cases continues to rise. On Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in ordered additional hospital beds and more face masks to be made available as the number of cases rose by 600 in the worst epidemic of any nation outside China.

He apologized for shortages of face masks and promised support for virus-hit small businesses in Asia’s fourth-biggest economy, which has now reported 5,186 cases and 28 deaths.

“The entire country has entered war against the infectious disease as the crisis in Daegu and Gyeongbuk province has reached the highest point,” he told a cabinet meeting, referring to the two hardest-hit parts of the country.

The virus, which originated in China late last year, began to spread rapidly in South Korea after it entered the congregation of a fringe Christian group in Daegu city, the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

Here’s what’s happening in Japan

Students sit apart from each other as they do self-study at an elementary school that was opened for children who cannot stay at home alone while their parents are at work, in Nagoya, central Japan, on Tuesday. (Kyodo/Reuters )

In Japan, it’s not just schools that closed as the government tries to stop the spread of COVID-19. According to local broadcaster NHK, a major mall operator is shortening hours and a gym chain is shuttering almost all of its outlets.

In Japan, questions continued to build about how the virus might affect the Olympics. The country’s Olympic minister, Seiko Hashimoto, said Tuesday the country was “making the utmost effort” to proceed with the games’ planned opening on July 24 in Tokyo. But she told parliament the country’s contract with the International Olympic Committee only specifies that the games be held during the year 2020, and that they could be delayed to later in the year if necessary.

Here’s what’s happening in Italy and Europe

A bicycle parked in Vittorio Veneto square Monday in Turin, Italy. (Massimo Pinca/Reuters)

In Italy, the count of infected people continued rising to 2,036 and officials said it could take up to two weeks to know whether measures including quarantines in 11 northern towns were working.

Tens of thousands of students in virus cluster zones are home from school in France on Tuesday, with a smaller number in Germany and Poland facing quarantines or days without class.

France’s education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, said around 120 schools have been ordered to close, most in Brittany and the Oise region north of Paris, which have been hit hard by COVID-19. He told LCI television it was probable that more schools could close and confirmed that he had ordered a freeze on all school trips. But he cautioned against rushing to a general shutdown of the education system.

“It wouldn’t make sense to confine everyone at home, to paralyze the country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine on Tuesday reported its first confirmed case of the new virus in a man who had recently arrived from Italy.

Here’s what’s happening in Iran and the Middle East

Doctors check a traveller as part of their work checking residents who have returned from Iran for the novel coronavirus, at Isa Town Health Center, south of Manama, Bahrain, on Monday. (Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters)

Iran’s supreme leader put the Islamic Republic on war footing Tuesday against the new coronavirus by ordering its armed forces to assist health officials in combating the outbreak — the deadliest outside of China — that authorities say has killed 77 people.

“Whatever helps public health and prevents the spread of the disease is good and what helps to spread it is sin,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.

After downplaying the coronavirus as recently as last week, Iranian authorities said Tuesday they had plans to potentially mobilize 300,000 soldiers and volunteers to confront the virus.

There are now over 2,530 cases of the new coronavirus across the Mideast. Of those outside Iran in the region, most link back to the Islamic Republic.

Here’s what’s happening in mainland China and Hong Kong

A worker wears protective clothing as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus as she watches over customers in a supermarket in Beijing on Tuesday. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 2,943 as of the end of Monday, up by 31 from the previous day.

Mainland China had 125 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Monday, the National Health Commission said Tuesday, down from 202 cases a day earlier and the lowest since the authority started publishing nationwide data in January.

Excluding cases in Hubei province, where the outbreak first started, there were 11 new cases in mainland China on Monday. Seven of the new cases were imported, involving Chinese nationals who had travelled from Italy to Qingtian county. None of them had been to Hubei province or its capital Wuhan, the Qingtian government said.

Dandong, the northern Chinese city that borders North Korea, said it would test all visitors who arrived in the city from Feb. 12. Those who arrived from Feb. 28 will be tested at designated hotels where they can undergo quarantine if infected.

“We are trying to distance ourselves from the virus, but what cannot be broken is the flesh and blood relationships between overseas Chinese and their families in their hometowns,” said the government of Qingtian county in the southeastern Zhejiang province.

Hong Kong has arranged four charter flights to bring back 533 of its residents from the Chinese province of Hubei, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, about a month after countries around the world began evacuating their citizens.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the flights would return on Wednesday and Thursday and those coming back would be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival.

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