Covid-19: Cases spread worldwide as China shows signs of recovery

China has continued to ease the lockdown on Hubei – the source of the coronavirus outbreak – as the rest of the world mobilises against the pandemic.

The Covid-19 disease which emerged in the province late last year has spread exponentially in the Middle East, Europe and North America, leading US president Donald Trump to declare a state of emergency for the US on Friday.

Countries across the world have implemented increasingly severe measures to halt the spread, including closing borders and schools.

New Zealand announced all incoming passengers, including it own citizens, will be required to isolate themselves for 14 days, with few exceptions.

The steps being implemented globally increasingly mirror those taken by China, which in January made the unprecedented decision to halt outbound transportation from cities with a combined population of more than 60 million people, starting with the epicentre of Wuhan in the central province of Hubei.

The spread of Covid-19 in the country has slowed dramatically, according to China’s National Health Commission.

The commission reported thousands of new cases daily last month, but recorded only 13 new deaths and 11 new cases in its latest update on Saturday.

The government of Hubei lowered its health risk assessments for all counties in the province outside Wuhan, which is the only city that remains “high risk”.

Several municipalities are gradually resuming public transport services and reopening businesses.

Waning outbreaks in parts of Asia stand in contrast with an escalating number of infections elsewhere.

State TV in Iran said the virus had killed another 97 people, pushing the death toll to 611 amid 12,729 confirmed cases.

Rwanda and Mauritania have recorded their first cases, meaning 19 of Africa’s 54 countries have now registered virus cases, most of them believed to have been imported.

In the US, which reported its 50th death from the outbreak on Friday, Mr Trump said the new emergency decree will open up 50 billion dollars (£40 billion) for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Medical staff members check the temperature of a passenger at the border crossing with Germany in Rozvadov, Czech Republic (Petr David Josek/AP)</figcaption>
Medical staff members check the temperature of a passenger at the border crossing with Germany in Rozvadov, Czech Republic (Petr David Josek/AP)

“We will defeat this threat,” Mr Trump told a news conference. “When America is tested, America rises to the occasion.”

New Zealand’s new measures, which prime minister Jacinda Ardern called some of the toughest border restrictions in the world, go into effect on Monday.

The only countries exempt from the restrictions are a handful of Pacific islands which have not had any cases of Covid-19.

New Zealand has had only six confirmed cases of the illness, and all of those have been connected with international travellers and there have been no signs of any local outbreaks.

The head of the World Health Organisation said Europe is now the “epicentre of the pandemic”.

The government of the Czech Republic made a middle-of-the-night announcement ordering retail businesses including shopping malls to close from Saturday morning.

The exceptions include those providing essential services such as supermarkets, petrol stations and pharmacies.

Denmark closed all its land, sea and air borders on Saturday. Travellers will be turned away at the border unless they can show that they have “a legitimate reason” to be there.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Global cases of coronavirus (PA Graphics)</figcaption>
Global cases of coronavirus (PA Graphics)

New infections in Italy soared by more than 2,500 on Friday and virus-related deaths made their biggest single-day jump, increasing by 250.

In the three weeks since the country identified its first virus cluster, Italy has reached 17,600 confirmed cases, with 1,266 deaths.

The government has ordered an unprecedented lockdown, ordering businesses to close and restricting movement.

Spanish media said the government is placing tight restrictions on movement for the nation of 46 million people while declaring a two-week state of emergency to fight a sharp rise in infections.

Health authorities said on Saturday that infections had reached 5,753 people, half of them in the capital Madrid. That represents a national increase of more than 1,500 in 24 hours.