New reports send coronavirus death rates soaring
Iranian officials up in arms over newly circulating reports suggesting the Iranian death toll from coronavirus is much higher than initially reported. Picture: Atta Kenare/AFP.Source:AFP
Australia has announced a ban on travellers from Iran after the latest coronavirus figures given to authorities indicated a “very significant rise” of cases and the highest death rate outside of mainland China.
Federal health minister Greg Hunt on Saturday afternoon said the National Security Council had met and decided to lift the travel advisory for Iran to level four – “do not travel”.
This was as a consequence of the spread of coronavirus, the high death rate in Iran and the arrival in Australia of a case undetected upon a 63-year-old woman’s departure from Iran, Mr Hunt said.
He said from Sunday, March 1, any Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family who have travelled to Iran will be required to strictly self-isolate, “consistent” with the decision made in relation to people who visited China.
“Non-citizens, permanent residents or their immediate family will be, from the first of March, prevented from coming to Australia until 14 days have passed from the time they have left Iran,” the health minister said.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy added: “We are particularly concerned about Iran at the moment.”
“It would seem to be the highest risk outside of China and cases from Iran have been exported to a number of countries,” he said.
Mr Hunt said their latest advice was 34 deaths outside of mainland China however there are claims that at least 210 people have died in the Middle Eastern country alone as a result of the new coronavirus disease.
BBC Persian reported the figures on Friday, citing unnamed sources in the Islamic republic’s health system and prompting an angry denial from a health ministry spokesman.
Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt announces the Iran travel ban. Picture: Erik Anderson/AAPSource:AAP
According to the London-based global news network’s Persian service said, most of the people died in the capital Tehran and the holy city of Qom in central Iran, where the country’s first case was reported.
Health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur accused BBC Persian of joining the Islamic republic’s regional enemies in a “race to spread lies” about Iran.
“Iran’s exemplary transparency in publishing information on the coronavirus has stunned many people,” Jahanpur tweeted.
BBC Persian’s figure is six times higher than the official death toll of 34 given by the health ministry earlier on Friday.
Even at 34, Iran has had the highest death rate from the outbreak outside China.
The latest statistics are concerning, as they contradict all that’s currently known about the virus so far.
If the BBC Persian figure of 210 deaths is accurate – with the total number of reported cases in Iran currently at 388 – these most recent figures would push the disease’s mortality rate to a shocking 54.12 per cent in Iran alone.
Alternatively, if China’s data on the virus is to be believed and the mortality rate is indeed 2.3 per cent, Iran’s unusually high death rate could also suggest a huge number of cases remain unreported in the country. The number of cases should be closer to 9,130 cases rather than the 388 currently being reported by Iranian government officials.
Discrepancies between media and government reports on the scale of the coronavirus outbreak have existed in China for months, with some questioning the reliability of China’s reporting.
Now, Iran finds itself in the same firing line.
“My sense is that Iranian officials tend to default to telling people what they think is politically beneficial. In other words, they tend to lie a lot,” Hussein Ibish, a scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, said today.
Citing Iran’s delay in taking responsibility for the Ukrainian plane incident, Ibish predicts Iran “will probably continue to try to deceive the public” as the coronavirus crisis continues to build.
On a global scale, the virus has infected more than 83,000 people – the vast majority of them in mainland China.
The disease was initially thought to have a fatality rate of less than 2 per cent — based on data from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC).
The report by the CCDC was published in the Chinese Journal of Epidemiology and looked at more than 44,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in China as of 11 February.
Data from that report shows the province’s death rate is 2.9 per cent compared with 0.4 per cent in the rest of the country.
China has continued to lock down the city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, in an effort to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease. Pictures: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
GLOBAL VIRUS RISK ESCALATED
The World Health Organisation on Friday raised its global risk assessment of the new coronavirus to its highest level after the epidemic spread to sub-Saharan Africa and financial markets slumped.
The virus has proliferated around the globe over the past week, emerging on every continent except Antarctica, prompting many governments and businesses to try to stop people from travelling or gathering in crowded places.
Six new countries have recorded cases: Mexico, Nigeria, Estonia, Denmark, the Netherlands and Lithuania.
Its rapid spread to new zones that has authorities concerned — in the past 24 hours, it has affected nine new countries, from Azerbaijan to Mexico to New Zealand.
“We have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high at global level,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.
The first coronavirus case in Australia with no links to China was confirmed today, marking a new development in the spread of the deadly disease.
A 63-year-old woman is in isolation at the Gold Coast University Hospital after testing positive for COVID-19. She had recently returned from Iran.
A 79-year-old woman from West Australia was also today confirmed as having the disease after being evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
VIRAL OUTBREAKS WORLDWIDE
Italy remains the hardest-hit country in Europe. On Friday, authorities said that the number of cases rose to 888 from 650 the day before. Of those, 21 people have died, an increase of four, and 46 have recovered.
Most of the victims who have died were elderly, many over the age of 80. Some of them had underlying health conditions including cancer.
Italy has seen a huge surge in the number of cases since last Friday, when only three were reported.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte urged people “not to give in to panic and follow the advice of health authorities”.
The number of cases in Korea has climbed from 104 on February 20 to more than 2300 on Friday, according to the Korea Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.
The outbreak has already begun to affect life and business in Korea. Korean Air, the country’s flagship airline, is conducting temperature checks for passengers. Hyundai Motor shut down a plant in the country after one of its employees tested positive for the virus. The hit K-pop band BTS cancelled four concerts in Seoul.
People are so fearful of contracting the virus that mobile apps that help track the disease in South Korea are now ranked as six of the top 15 downloads on the country’s Google Play app store (as of Thursday).
Disinfection professionals have taken to disinfecting subway stations in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading in Seoul, South Korea. Picture: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
In Japan, five million people were told to stay at home over the weekend after the governor of Hokkaido, the northern island, declared a state of emergency. There are more than 200 cases in Japan, a third of them in Hokkaido, two involving children under 10.
Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan announced that they were closing indefinitely.
A revolt was brewing against a government request for all schools to close for at least a month from Monday. The city of Kyoto said that it would not follow the request, citing the difficulties it would cause working parents.
Tokyo Disneyland has been closed for around two weeks over fears of perpetuating the outbreak. Picture: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP.Source:AFP
In the United States, California health officials on Friday confirmed a second case of novel coronavirus which are suspected to have stemmed fro community transmission.
San Jose health officials confirmed the latest patient – an older woman with chronic health conditions – does not have a travel history or any known contact with a traveller or infected person.
It comes a day after state officials said a woman hospitalised in Sacramento had contracted the illness after no known contact.
Earlier US cases included 14 people who returned from outbreak areas in China or had been in contact with a recent traveller, three people who were evacuated from Wuhan, and 42 American passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
More than 3700 people were on board the Diamond Princess, which was sent into lockdown after it emerged a passenger that left the ship in Hong Kong had later tested positive for coronavirus. Picture: Philip Fong/AFP.Source:AFP
Lebanon announced Friday it would bar entry to nonresident foreigners from the four countries most affected by the coronavirus outbreak, a day after announcing its third case.
The Middle Eastern country will deny entry to people arriving from China, South Korea, Iran and Italy, the state news agency reported, without saying when the measure would come into effect.
Education Minister Tarek Majzoub on Friday ordered the closure of all schools, universities and other educational institutions in the country until March 8.
Three individuals in Lebanon have been confirmed as infected. All three – two Lebanese and an Iranian – arrived recently from Iran.
Anti-government protesters hold up banners in Arabic that read, ‘You are the coronavirus, you are the epidemic, and Humiliation, bankruptcy, looting, starving and killing the rest of us’ during ongoing protests against the Lebanese government in front of the Lebanese Ministry of Health, in Beirut, Lebanon. Picture: AP/Hassan Ammar.Source:AP
In Germany, more than 1000 people were in quarantine in the country’s most populous state on Friday. The district of Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia said it had to take the step of keeping around 1000 on their homes as an infected couple had participated in carnival celebrations in mid-February.
Members of Germany’s coronavirus emergency task force called a meeting on February 28 to discuss the global spread of the disease. Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Britain reported its first confirmed coronavirus case on January 31 but there had been no deaths in the country at that point in time.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said slowing the spread of the coronavirus is now his government’s top priority, after news broke of the first Briton dying of the disease.
The number of people infected in Britain currently stands at 20.