The death toll in China from the new coronavirus climbed 213 on Friday, with overall cases worldwide rising rapidly in an outbreak that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency.
The death toll in Hubei, the Chinese province at the centre of the epidemic, had risen to 204 and there were 9,692 cases of infection nationally as of Thursday. About 100 cases have been reported in at least 18 other countries, with no deaths outside China.
Even as the WHO said cases had spread to 18 countries, Italy announced its 1st confirmed cases, in 2 Chinese tourists.
Italian PM Giuseppe Conte said the government had decided to close all air traffic between Italy and China, a more drastic measure than most countries have undertaken.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said the organization “doesn’t recommend – and actually opposes” restrictions on travel or trade with China.
Moreover, foreign governments have been flying home their citizens from Hubei and holding them in quarantine, while airlines including Air France, American Airlines and British Airways have stopped flying to mainland China.
Airlines are facing mounting pressure by cabin crew to stop all flights due to unease about exposure to the virus.
Stocks around the world have tumbled on fears of the economic fallout from the outbreak in the world’s second-biggest economy.