Americans quarantined in Bethlehem hotel over coronavirus scare

The latest:

Fifteen Americans have been quarantined in a hotel in Bethlehem as part of precautions against the coronavirus, a Palestinian government spokesperson said on Saturday.

The city in the West Bank has been in lockdown since nine cases of the virus were recorded there earlier in the week, for a total of 16 in the territory.

Security forces wearing face masks could be seen Saturday securing the perimeter around the Angel Hotel. The entrance of the street leading to the hotel was cordoned off and an ambulance was parked outside.

The fast-spreading outbreak hit a milestone on Friday, infecting more than 100,000 people worldwide in more than 90 countries. The head of the World Health Organization urged all nations to continue to make containment their highest priority.

Slowing down the epidemic “saves lives and buys time” for preparedness and for research and development, Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

Mainland China, where the outbreak began late last year, has reported 80,651 cases, including 3,070 deaths.

U.S. officials, meanwhile, were deciding where to dock a cruise ship after U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence confirmed 21 virus cases had been diagnosed aboard.

Palestinian security forces stop a vehicle at a checkpoint in Beit Jala on the outskirts of the biblical city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on Saturday. Bethlehem was placed under lockdown on Friday due to fears over COVID-19. The Palestinian government announced a month-long state of emergency late on March 5 after the first seven cases were identified. (Musa al Shaer/AFP via Getty Images)

The Grand Princess, with 3,500 people aboard, including 235 Canadians, remained in international waters off San Francisco late Friday. The ship was ordered to hold its position off the coast after a traveller from a previous voyage died of COVID-19, caused by the virus, and at least two others became infected. 

It is expected to arrive in Vancouver on April 2 and Victoria on April 3. Health authorities in the province are drawing up screening measures.

In statements to CBC provided on Thursday, both Princess Cruises and Global Affairs Canada confirmed there have been no cases of coronavirus identified yet on this voyage of the Grand Princess.

Pence said the U.S. government is planning to bring the Grand Princess cruise ship into a “non-commercial port” where all the passengers and crew will be tested.

River cruise boat under quarantine

Elsewhere, a Nile cruise boat carrying over 150 tourists and Egyptian crew is under quarantine in the southern city of Luxor after 12 people tested positive for the coronavirus.

Egyptian health authorities say a Taiwanese-American tourist on board the boat had tested positive for the virus upon returning to Taiwan late in February.

From hygiene tips to conversations you might not have considered having, here’s what you can do to get ready for an outbreak, according to Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme. 1:57 

Local officials said there are Americans, French and Indians among the passengers. A health official said that the 12 are isolated inside the boat while the rest are awaiting test results.

The new infections bring the total number of cases in Egypt to 15.

Malaysia, meanwhile, has turned away a cruise ship carrying around 2,000 passengers and crew from a port in northern Penang state, becoming the second country to bar the ship from docking after Thailand.

Italian connection to banned cruise ship

The Costa Fortuna was turned away from the popular resort island of Phuket in southern Thailand on Friday due to the presence of 64 Italians on board. Thai health authorities have officially designated Italy a dangerous communicable disease area because it has been hit hard by the coronavirus.

Phee Boon Poh, an executive councillor in Malaysia’s Penang state. said he was informed by the Penang port that it had turned away the cruise liner Saturday morning following a directive from the transport ministry. He said the ship was now making its way to Singapore.

 The death toll from coronavirus in Italy has risen by 49 to 197, the Civil Protection Agency said Friday — the largest daily increase in fatalities since the contagion was uncovered two weeks ago. The cumulative number of cases in the country, which has been hardest hit by the virus in Europe, totalled 4,636, up from 3,858 on Thursday.

The head of the agency said that, of those originally infected, 523 had fully recovered.

Iranian politician dies of COVID-19

In hard-hit Iran, a 55-year-old newly elected legislator died after contracting the virus, the state-run IRNA news agency reported Saturday. Fatemeh Rahabar was recently elected in the capital of Tehran for the next parliament that begins working in May. Earlier this week, Iranian legislator Abdolreza Mesri told state television that 23 members in the current parliament had the coronavirus, and he urged all lawmakers to avoid the public.

The number of deaths caused by the disease in Iran rose by 21 over the past 24 hours to reach 145 on Saturday, a health ministry official said. The number of people testing positive for the virus increased by more than 1,000 over the past 24 hours, reaching 5,823 on Saturday, he said.

Italy has reported more deaths from COVID-19 than both Iran and South Korea, the leading two hot-spots for the outbreak after China. The death toll from the virus in Italy has risen to 197, the largest daily increase in fatalities in that country.

Italian officials said 49 people had died in 24 hours, while more than 4,600 cases have been reported in total.

Canadian cases increase in number

More cases of the coronavirus reported in Alberta and Ontario on Friday afternoon brought Canada’s total to 54. 

Canada’s first apparent case of community transmission was reported in British Columbia on Friday night, a Vancouver-area woman who has not travelled recently and had no known contact with anyone else diagnosed with the virus.

Quebec, which had two confirmed cases as of Thursday, reported a third presumptive case on Friday in a person who had travelled to France. 

Here are some of the latest developments in other countries and regions:

  • Florida has reported two coronavirus deaths, the first in the U.S. outside of the West Coast, two people in their 70s who had travelled overseas and died in Santa Rosa County in Florida’s Panhandle and in the Fort Myers area. Florida also raised the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 from four to seven.
  • Malta has confirmed its first coronavirus case, a 12-year-old girl and, along with her family, visited northern Italy in late February and early March.
  • The number of coronavirus cases in the United Arab Emirates has risen to 45 from 30.
  • Kuwait has recorded three new cases, bringing its infection tally to 61, while Qatar reported its 12th case.
  • South Korea, the hardest-hit country after China, reported 448 new cases on Saturday for a total of 7,041. South Korea also reported four more deaths, raising the death toll to 48.

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