Coronavirus outbreak grips world; Twitter tells staff to work from home
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan were the greatest concern, but that there was evidence that close surveillance was working in South Korea, the worst affected country outside China.
The deadly coronavirus continues to wreak havoc globally with the total number of deaths crossing 3,100 – the vast majority in mainland China – and infections surging past 89,000 in nearly 70 countries and territories.
Amid the virus outbreak that has spread from Asia to the US, Europe and the Middle East, Twitter has told its employees to work from home. In a blog post, the social media giant said it was mandatory for staff in Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea to work remotely.
The company also said it was "strongly encouraging" all of its 5,000 employees around the world to not come into work. It comes a day after the firm banned all non-essential business travel and events for its workers, the BBC reported.
The company had already announced that it was pulling out of this month's South by Southwest media conference in Austin, Texas.
Twitter's head of human resources Jennifer Christie said: "Our goal is to lower the probability of the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus for us - and the world around us."
The post also highlighted that Twitter has been developing ways to work from home for some time: "While this is a big change for us, we have already been moving towards a more distributed workforce that's increasingly remote. We're a global service and we're committed to enabling anyone, anywhere to work at Twitter."
Twitter's Chief Executive Jack Dorsey has long-supported remote working and in November announced plans to live in Africa for up to six months of this year.
Other leading technology companies, including Facebook and Google, have postponed or cancelled conferences in the US. Facebook has also joined Twitter by pulling out of South by Southwest.
At the same time companies, including telecoms operator A&T and banking giant Citigroup, have restricted international travel, especially to Asia.
WHO: Risk of coronavirus spreading very high
World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that almost eight times as many cases had been reported outside China as inside in the previous 24 hours, adding that the risk of coronavirus spreading was now very high at a global level.
At a briefing in Geneva, he said outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan were the greatest concern, but that there was evidence that close surveillance was working in South Korea, the worst affected country outside China, and the epidemic could be contained there, Reuters reported.
US Vice President Mike Pence said that within 12 hours, airports across South Korea and Italy will screen all travellers for coronavirus. Pence, who has been put in charge of the US response to the outbreak, also said US travel restrictions may expand.
The head of the US Food and Drug Administration said that the American industry expects to have the capacity to perform 1 million coronavirus tests by the end of the week.
The number of dead in Italy jumped by 18 to 52, reports said on Tuesday. Latvia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Morocco reported cases for the first time.
More than predicted
A senior US official said he was concerned about a likely jump in the number of cases in the US, which has had more than 90, with six deaths. More testing will almost surely lead to more confirmed cases.
South Korea has had 26 deaths and reported another 599 infections on Monday, taking its tally to 4,335.
'Outbreaks are curbed' in China
The coronavirus death toll in China climbed to 2,943 with 31 more deaths, while 125 confirmed cases were reported, the lowest since the virus outbreak in the country, Chinese health officials said on Tuesday.
China’s National Health Commission, (NHC) said on Tuesday it received reports of 125 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 31 deaths on Monday in the country. Chinese officials said that Monday's numbers were the lowest since the country began to report about the coronavirus epidemic, showing signs of stabilising, especially in the Chinese mainland.
According to the WHO, there are 89,527 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,056 deaths reported globally in 67 countries.
Iran, one of the worst-hit nations, reported infections rising to 1,501, with 66 deaths, including a senior official. With stocks of gloves and other medical supplies running low in pharmacies, authorities uncovered a hoard of supplies including millions of gloves.
In Britain, which has 40 confirmed cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to be prepared for a further spread.
Noting that knowing and understanding the epidemic is the first step to defeating it, Ghebreyesus tweeted on Monday that "we are in unchartered territory with COVID-19. We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission".
"It spreads from person to person mainly through the droplets produced when an infected person speaks, coughs or sneezes," Ghebreyesus, who visited China in January, said.
A 12-member WHO team also visited the virus-hit areas in China and submitted a detailed report.
Ghebreyesus said containment of COVID-19 is still feasible and must remain the top priority for all countries right now, though there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Two people tested positive of the disease in India on Monday. One case was detected in Delhi and the other was in Telangana. The person from Delhi had travelled to Italy while the other had gone to Dubai recently, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said.
In Japan, the total number of infected cases increased to 980, while 12 people died of the disease. Three people have died of the disease in France, while the confirmed cases increased to 191.