17 Italians in India test positive for coronavirus, Iraq reports its first death
A group of Italian tourists have been put in quarantine in India, with 17 testing positive for the new coronavirus, a source told AFP Wednesday.
Italy is a hotspot of the deadly virus with 79 deaths and more than 2,500 infected, while India's official case total stands at only 21.
After two out of a group of 23 tourists who arrived in the country last month tested positive in the western state of Rajasthan, the other 21 were put under quarantine in a special facility in New Delhi on Tuesday.
"Out of the 21 tourists, 15 have been tested positive for coronavirus. We are awaiting test results of the others," the source said on condition of anonymity.
Worldwide around 3,200 people have died from the virus with more than 90,000 infections, with China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan the worst affected.
India has now stepped up preventative measures including barring visitors from Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan, except diplomats and officials from international bodies.
"There is no need to panic. We need to work together, take small yet important measures to ensure self-protection," Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Tuesday.
"Had an extensive review regarding preparedness on the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. Different ministries & states are working together, from screening people arriving in India to providing prompt medical attention," he said.
Iraq said a 70-year-old Muslim cleric died on Wednesday from the novel coronavirus, marking the first death from the outbreak in a country where 31 people have been infected.
The preacher had been quarantined in the northeastern city of Sulaimaniyah before his death, a spokesman for the northern Kurdish autonomous region's health authority said.
According to local sources, he had recently met with Iraqis returning from neighbouring Iran, which has recorded the deadliest outbreak outside China, the epidemic’s epicentre.
The virus in the Islamic Republic has claimed 77 lives and infected more than 2,300 people.
Iraq, where 31 cases of coronavirus have been reported, is one of Iran's largest export markets and a popular destination for Iranian pilgrims visiting the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.
Many Iraqis also cross the frontier for business, tourism, medical treatment and religious studies.
Iraqi authorities have closed land borders with Iran and banned the entry of foreign nationals travelling from there and other badly affected countries.
Schools, universities, cinemas, cafes and other public places in Iraq have been ordered shut until March 7 to further contain the outbreak, but many continue to operate normally.
The outbreak has fuelled public panic among Iraqis who say the war-ravaged country's healthcare system cannot handle the epidemic.
Many hospitals in Iraq are poorly equipped or in disrepair after successive waves of conflict.
According to the World Health Organization, there are fewer than 10 doctors for every 10,000 people.