Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia temporarily suspends Umrah for citizens, residents
Italy readies draconian new measures to try to contain virus
WHO warns of global shortage of medical equipment
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has placed a temporary ban on its citizens and residents from performing the Muslim pilgrimage Umrah in Makkah to prevent the spread of coronavirus according to state news agency SPA.
Under the temporary ban Saudi nationals and residents living in the Kingdom wanting to perform Umrah will not be allowed into Islam's holiest sites.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that it is working to help foreign pilgrims still in the Kingdom return to their countries.
Last week, Saudi Arabia closed off the holiest sites in Islam to foreign pilgrims over the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday warned of a global shortage and price gouging for protective equipment to fight the fast-spreading coronavirus and asked companies and governments to increase production by 40% as the death toll from the respiratory illness mounted.
Meanwhile, Italy prepared new emergency measures on Wednesday to try to slow the spread of coronavirus in Europe’s worst hit country, including the possible closure of all schools, universities, cinemas, theaters and most public events.
Seventy-nine people had died of the new coronavirus in Italy as of Tuesday, with more than 2,500 confirmed cases since the outbreak surfaced 13 days ago.
A draft decree seen by Reuters spelled out the draconian steps, ordering “the suspension of events of any nature… that entail the concentration of people and do not allow for a safety distance of at least one meter (yard) to be respected.”
The decree orders the closure of cinemas and theaters, and tells Italians not to shake hands or hug each other.
A government source said schools and universities will also be closed nationwide from Thursday, though this was not in the decree seen by Reuters, and the education minister said the decision had not yet been finalised.
The measures were expected to be formally announced by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte after a meeting with regional governors later on Wednesday.
The U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates on Tuesday in an emergency move to try to prevent a global recession and the World Bank announced $12 billion to help countries fight the coronavirus, which has taken a heavy toll on air travel, tourism and other industries, threatening global economic growth prospects.
The virus continued to spread in South Korea, Japan, Europe, Iran and the United States, and several countries reported their first confirmed cases, taking the total to some 80 nations hit with the flu-like illness that can lead to pneumonia.
US lawmakers were considering spending as much as $9 billion to contain local spread of the virus.
In Iran, doctors and nurses lack supplies and 77 people have died, one of the highest numbers outside China. The United Arab Emirates announced it was closing all schools for four weeks.
The death toll in Italy, Europe’s hardest-hit country, jumped to 79 on Tuesday and Italian officials are considering expanding the area under quarantine. France reported its fourth coronavirus death, while Indonesia, Ukraine, Argentina and Chile reported their first coronavirus cases.
About 3.4% of confirmed cases of COVID-19 have died, far above seasonal flu’s fatality rate of under 1%, but the virus can be contained, the WHO chief said on Tuesday. - Agencies