Coronavirus: Italy orders mass closures after COVID-19 cases quadruple

Officials in northern Italy ordered schools, public buildings, restaurants and coffee shops to close.

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Officials ordered schools, public buildings, restaurants and coffee shops in ten towns in northern Italy to close after a cluster of 14 new COVID-19 cases emerged.

All cases were located in the Lombardy region where a 38-year-old man fell ill with the virus after meeting someone who returned from China in late January. Five doctors and nurses and several patients were infected at the hospital in Codogno where he was treated.

Three other people, who all visited the same cafe in the Lombardy region, also tested positive for the virus.

Hundreds of people have been put in isolation and are being tested for the virus, said health officials. Over 150 co-workers of the 38-year-old as well 70 medical staff at Codogna hospital are among those being tested.

The new cases represent the first acquired through secondary contagion in Italy and brought the total number of confirmed cases up to 17.

COVID-19 spreads globally

South Korea also reported a rise of more than 100 virus cases on Friday, taking the total number of infected in the country to 204. The country also reported a second death from the virus.

Prime minister Chung Sye-kyun called the situation an emergency, and the cities of Daegu and Cheongdo have been designated special care zones.

Iran is also struggling to contain the virus. Authorities there announced 13 new cases as well as two deaths from the COVID-19 virus on Friday. Most cases here are linked to the holy city of Qom, but people are infected in other cities too.

Lebanon reported its first cases of the virus — a 45-year-old woman who had recently traveled to Qom.

And authorities in Israel confirmed its first case — a passenger on the virus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship. The infected person had initially tested negative to the virus on arrival in Israel.

What's the situation in South Korea?

Most of the cases in the country center around the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a religious sect in the southern city of Daegu. More than 120 members of the church have been infected.

The government is trying to identify those who might have come in contact with infected people, and diagnose the disease at the earliest opportunity.

"We will proactively provide necessary assistance including sickbeds, personnel, and equipment," the prime minister said in a meeting with senior officials.

The mayor of Daegu advised its population of over 2.4 million people to stay indoors.

What's happening in Iran?

Iran has a total of 18 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Out of Friday's 13 new cases, four came from Tehran, seven came from Qom, and four were from the Gilan province in the north, on the Caspian Sea, according to Kianush Jahanapur, the Health Ministry spokesman.

Those not from Qom were linked to the city. Qom has now imposed special measures including closing schools and universities.

Iran stopped short on a complete ban on its citizens traveling to China, but it has stopped all flights except cargo flights to China in the past two weeks. Its civil aviation authority spokesperson said these are under supervision and checks are being carried out.

Turkey's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said officials have begun screen travelers arriving from Iran at border gates and are refusing entry to anyone with signs of illness. He also said Iranians who have traveled to Qom in the past 14 days will be refused entry.

Kuwait airways reacted to Iran's outbreak, saying it was suspending all flights to the country.