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Covid-19: 42 new cases confirmed in UK, as Pope Francis to hold Sunday prayer by livestream

In Greece, a row has erupted over whether to cancel Holy Communion, while China has just 99 new confirmed cases of Covid-19.

Image: Andrew Medichini

Updated Mar 7th 2020, 3:12 PM

COUNTRIES AROUND THE world are taking increasingly drastic measures to cope with the threat of coronavirus. 

Today, Italy began recruiting retired doctors as part of efforts to bolster the healthcare system with 20,000 additional staff and fight the virus. There have been over 4,600 confirmed cases in Italy, and 197 deaths.

The measure was one of several adopted by the government during an all-night cabinet meeting that came after the country reported 49 more deaths.

The government’s most immediate concern is that Covid-19 infections that had been largely contained to pockets of the richer north will start spreading into the poorer and less medically equipped south.

The World Health Organization concluded a mission to Italy yesterday by recommending the government keep “a strong focus on containment measures”.

The government said that the medical recruitment drive should help double the staff of hospitals’ respiratory and infectious disease departments.

It should also increase the number of intensive care beds from 5,000 to 7,500 in the coming days.

The UK

There are 42 new cases of Covid-19 in the UK, its Department of Health confirmed today, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 206 – including four people in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Health said more than 21,000 people had been tested for the virus.

The public has been told to prepare itself in case “social distancing” policies are needed to help contain the spread of the virus.

Yesterday, it was confirmed that a man in his early 80s had become the second person to die in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus. The previous evening a patient, reported to be a woman in her 70s, became the first person in the UK to die after being diagnosed with Covid-19 while at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

The Vatican

vatican-pope-virus-outbreak Pope Francis coughs during the Angelus noon prayer he recited from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square last Sunday. Source: Andrew Medichini

Pope Francis has decided to deliver tomorrow’s prayer by livestream.

The 83-year-old pontiff broke with centuries of tradition by enlisting the help of technology to keep crowds from descending on Saint Peter’s Square for the traditional Angelus Prayer.

“The prayer will be broadcast via livestream by Vatican News and on screens in Saint Peter’s Square,” the Vatican said in a statement.

It had originally promised to review the Argentine-born pope’s schedule “to avoid the dissemination” of the new Covid-19 disease.

The Vatican appears to believe that the pope’s absence from his traditional spot at the window will keep the crowds on the vast square down and the threat of contagion low.

Greece

coronavirus-outbreak-2020-greece A woman in Athens wears a face mask. Source: PA Images

In Greece, a row has erupted between doctors and the Church of Greece over whether to restrict Holy Communion in churches. 

The federation of hospital doctors this week stressed that no exception “for religious, sacramental or metaphysical reasons” should be made to state health warnings. 

Greece has so far confirmed 45 coronavirus cases, most of them among a group of pilgrims that travelled to Israel and Egypt last month.

But in the run-up to Orthodox Easter in April, the church is holding its ground.

“It’s not possible to shut down churches, or to not give out Holy Communion,” bishop Chrysostomos of Patras, one of the areas with the most virus cases, said this week.

“Whoever believes that holy communion is life has nothing to fear, it’s a matter of faith.

“Across the centuries, there is no case of sickness spreading through Holy Communion,” he told Open TV. There is concern as mainly elderly Greeks have started flocking to church for Orthodox Easter prayers.

China

virus-outbreak-china-hotel-collapse A man being assisted from the rubble of a collapsed hotel building in China earlier today. Source: AP/PA Images

Around 70 people were trapped after the collapse of a hotel used as a coronavirus quarantine facility in eastern China this afternoon. 

At least 38 people have so far been rescued from the rubble of the 80-room hotel in a coastal city, the local government said. 

The hotel appeared to have crumbled into the ground exposing the building’s steel frame. Officials have yet to confirm whether anyone died in the incident. 

Over 700 rescue workers have allegedly been sent to the scene along with ambulances, excavators and cranes. 

The country reported 99 new coronavirus cases today, its first daily increase of less than 100 since 20 January. The government reported 28 deaths yesterday. 

Overall, China now has 22,177 patients in treatment, while 55,404 have been released.

Around the world 

virus-outbreak-pandemic A firefighter disinfects the shrine of Saint Saleh to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in northern Tehran, Iran. Source: AP/PA Images

Many governments have imposed restrictions on visitors from China, South Korea, Italy and Iran.

In Iran, newly-elected politician Fatemeh Rahabar, 55, died from the virus as the number of infections there rose by more than 1,000 overnight, with 145 deaths.

Serbia said it might deploy the army to keep the virus at bay, while in Switzerland the military is being readied to provide support services at hospitals after 210 new cases were reported yesterday.

French health minister Olivier Veran said children will be banned from visiting patients in hospitals and other health facilities across the country, and patients will be limited to one adult visit at a time.

Five more people have died from Covid-19 in France bringing the total to 16, the French health ministry announced today. 

Spanish officials have announced a month-long closure of 200 centres in and around Madrid where the elderly go for daytime care and activities.

The BBC is also reporting that Barcelona Marathon, which was scheduled for 15 March, has been postponedIt’ll now take place on 25 October. 

Hungary has cancelled its upcoming national day commemoration event on 15 March for “safety reasons” over the virus outbreak. 

The global death toll from coronavirus has risen above 3,400, with more than 100,000 cases now reported.

coronavirus-pupils-in-quarantine-after-south-tyrol-trips A medical assistant waits for the next students for examination on a school campus in Saxony-Anhalt, Halle in Germany. Source: DPA/PA Images

South Africa today confirmed its second case of Covid-19 in a woman who travelled to Italy as part of a group with the first confirmed case. 

The Netherlands reported its first virus death yesterday, while Malta, Serbia, Slovakia, Peru, Togo, Colombia and Cameroon announced their first cases of the condition as it continues its spread across the world.

The 100,000 figure of global infections dwarfs other major outbreaks in recent decades, such as Sars, Mers and Ebola.

But the virus is still much less widespread than annual flu epidemics, which result in up to five million annual severe cases around the world and 290,000-650,000 deaths each year, according to the World Health Organisation.

South Korea, the hardest-hit country outside China, has reported 448 new cases to bring its total to 7,041.

According to the most extensive study of the effect of the virus on patients, Covid-19 was benign in 80.9% of cases, “serious” in 13.8% and “critical” in 4.7%. The remaining 0.6% was not specified. 

 With reporting from Press Association and Dominic McGrath

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