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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pictured with his wife, Sophie Gregoire, in October. Photo: AP

Coronavirus latest: English Premier League suspended, Canadian PM quarantined; Australian minister infected, Indonesia cases rise

  • Justin Trudeau is not showing symptoms and will remain in self-isolation for 14 days as a ‘precautionary measure’, his office said in a statement
  • Elsewhere, Australia’s home affairs minister has the virus, Singapore shuts its ports to cruise ships and Mount Everest is closed to climbers

The English Premier League suspended all fixtures until April 4 on Friday after a spate of coronavirus cases, including Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi.

“Following a meeting of shareholders today, it was unanimously decided to suspend the Premier League with the intention of returning on 4 April, subject to medical advice and conditions at the time,” the Premier League said in a statement.

“Above all, we wish Mikel Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi speedy recoveries, and everyone else affected by Covid-19,” said Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters.

“In this unprecedented situation, we are working closely with our clubs, government, The FA and EFL and can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority.”

The English Football League, which heads up the three divisions below the Premier League, and Women’s Super League will also be suspended until April 3.

Earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went into quarantine for 14 days after his wife Sophie Grégoire tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The news came as stocks in Asia tumbled on Friday amid fears of a global recession, Australia’s home affairs minister Peter Dutton revealed he was infected and Singapore said it would cease port calls for all cruise vessels with immediate effect.

China’s first confirmed Covid-19 case traced back to November 17

In a statement, Trudeau’s office said the isolation period was a “precautionary measure” and that he will not be tested as he is not showing symptoms. His wife “is feeling well, is taking all the recommended precautions and her symptoms remain mild”, the statement added.

Trudeau is to continue daily activities while self-monitoring, taking briefings, phone calls, and virtual meetings from home, including speaking with other world leaders and joining a special cabinet committee discussion on the outbreak.

Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton has tested positive for the coronavirus. Photo: EPA

Dutton, the Australian minister, said in a statement that he tested positive for the virus after waking up “with a temperature and sore throat”. He had attended a meeting in Sydney on Tuesday with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other cabinet members for a few hours, a spokeswoman said.

Dutton was in Washington last week where he met US Attorney General William Barr and US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

Other world leaders hit by infection fears include Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is being tested in the wake of two of his economic officials quarantining themselves after coming into contact with an infected person, and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro said he has tested negative for Covid-19 after a scare over a trip on which at least one infected member of his staff rubbed shoulders with Trump.
Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange after the close of trading on Thursday. Photo: Reuters
Friday’s Asia stock rout followed the worst Wall Street session since 1987, with investors spooked that emergency fiscal and monetary packages won’t be enough to stave off a global downturn.

Tokyo fell as much as 10 per cent at one point before edging back slightly, Seoul sank eight per cent and Mumbai fell more than 9 per cent. Hong Kong went into the break down 5.8 per cent, while Sydney, Singapore, Wellington, Jakarta and Manila were between four and five per cent off.

Bloodbath continues as Asia equity markets tumble over spreading coronavirus pandemic

Bangkok dropped more than seven per cent, with Taipei and Kuala Lumpur more than six per cent down. The selling led to brief trading halts in Seoul, Mumbai, Bangkok and Jakarta.

UN infection

A female diplomat from the Philippines mission to the United Nations tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, marking the first known case at the world body’s New York headquarters.

“As of today, the Philippine Mission is in lockdown, and all personnel are instructed to self-quarantine and to seek medical attention should they develop the symptoms. We are assuming that all of us have been infected,” wrote Philippines acting UN Ambassador Kira Azucena in a message seen by Reuters.

The 193-member world body began implementing virus prevention measures at its Manhattan headquarters this week, cutting short a conference on women’s rights and cancelling several other planned events.

News of the infection came as three more people died from the virus in the Philippines and Duterte placed the capital region under “community quarantine” for one month in a bid to halt the outbreak’s spread.

Cases soar

Italy’s virus death toll surpassed 1,000 on Thursday, with the country at the centre of Europe’s worst outbreak reporting 17,660 cases in total.
In Britain, with 798 confirmed cases and more than 20 patients in intensive care units at the latest count, the government’s chief scientific adviser said as many as 10,000 people in the country were likely to be already infected.
Meanwhile, China, where the outbreak originated, reported just eight new cases – three of which were imported – and seven deaths on Friday, taking the country’s total to 3,176 deaths out of 80,813 cases with 64,111 people discharged from hospital after having recovered.
South Korea also reported its lowest daily increase of new cases in more than two weeks on Friday, with 110 new infections recorded and one more death.

The latest tally brought the number of total cases to 7,979 and the death toll up to 67, according to the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and marked the country's lowest daily infection numbers since February 25.

Indonesia on Friday reported 35 new coronavirus cases, including two toddlers, bringing its total to 69.

Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto said that three more people with the illness had died, taking the death toll to four.

Several Indonesians have been diagnosed with the virus in Singapore after displaying symptoms while in Indonesia, leading some to suggest that Jakarta had failed to detect infections.

Yurianto said the government wanted to trace the contacts of these patients but was not able to because Singapore authorities did not want to disclose their names.

The Singapore embassy in Jakarta told The Jakarta Post on Friday that the authorities could not release details of patients because of its confidentiality and privacy policies. Foreign patients in Singapore could contact their embassies of their own accord.

India’s visa restrictions leave travel firms in crisis

India on Friday reported its second coronavirus fatality, a 68-year-old woman in New Delhi who died one day after officials in the capital ordered schools, cinemas and theatres closed.

The government said that the woman, who suffered from diabetes and hypertension, as well as her son, had tested positive.

The South Asian nation announced its first death on Thursday, a 76-year-old man who had died two days previously in the southern state of Karnataka.

The second death comes as India’s suspension of incoming tourists went into effect, and just days after the country ordered the closure of most border points with neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar.

In Iran, the health ministry said 514 people have been killed by the illness out of 11,364 confirmed cases of infection.

Coronavirus infections in Spain soared to more than 4,200 on Friday, while the number of deaths stood at 120, the health ministry said.

First infections reported in Kenya, Kazakhstan

Kenya has confirmed its first case of coronavirus, the first in East Africa, after a Kenyan who arrived in the country from the US via London tested positive.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said on Friday that the patient, who had travelled from Ohio in US via London to Nairobi, has been isolated at Kenyatta National Hospital and is in a stable condition. He said the government has traced all contacts the patient made since her arrival.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation with over 100 million people, said a 48-year-old Japanese man who had arrived in the country on March 4 from Burkina Faso was confirmed to have contracted the virus.

On Thursday, three other countries Gabon, Ghana and Ivory Coast confirmed their first coronavirus cases as the continent recorded two more deaths in Algeria and Egypt. Gabon health authorities said a 27-year-old Gabonese man who had returned from France on March 8, tested positive for the deadly disease that has killed nearly 5000 people and infected more than 130,000 worldwide.

In Ghana, the health ministry said two people who had returned recently from Norway and Turkey, tested positive.

Meanwhile, three Kazakh citizens have tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from Germany or Italy, Healthcare Minister Yelzhan Birtanov said, the first cases of the disease in the Central Asian country.

Entertainment shutdown

The US entertainment industry braced for an unprecedented shutdown to curb the spread of the virus, cancelling upcoming films, suspending all Broadway performances and scuttling concert tours until it is safe to welcome crowds back.
To accommodate calls for social distancing, Hollywood moved to pause the normal hum of TV productions and the bustle of red-carpet film premieres; Broadway theatres announced that they would close through April 12 after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo banned gatherings of more than 500 people; Live Nation Entertainment and AEG Presents, the world’s largest live-entertainment companies, suspended all current tours through March, including those of Billie Eilish, the Strokes and Post Malone, and Bob Dylan announced he was cancelling 15 upcoming concerts in Japan.
Students get ready to take an exam while wearing face masks at a school in Siliguri, India. Photo: AFP
Disney, which had already shut its theme parks in Asia, announced it would close its resorts in Florida, California and Paris as well. All of its new cruise departures have also been suspended starting on Saturday.

Combined, the entertainment closures amount to a nearly complete halting of the industry and the largest-scale shutdown of many of the US’ major arteries of culture.

Meanwhile, New Zealand cancelled one of the Pacific’s largest cultural festivals on Friday, saying there was too much risk of attendees contracting the virus and then spreading it through vulnerable island nations.

Auckland’s annual Pasifika Festival normally attracts more than 60,000 people from across the region and is billed as the biggest Polynesian celebration in the world.

Sporting impact

Dawning awareness of the virus’ reach has already forced the scuttling of most major US sporting events, including the NBA and NHL seasons.

Formula One has postponed upcoming races in Bahrain and Vietnam following the cancellation of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Formula One now hopes to begin the 2020 season with the Dutch Grand Prix on May 3 but this will be reviewed.

European soccer’s governing body Uefa has called an emergency meeting next week to discuss its response to the pandemic.

Those discussions will include all domestic and European competitions as well as the 24-team Euro 2020 set to be held in 12 cities from June 12 to July 12. The European Championship is the biggest national team tournament after the World Cup and a major source of revenue for Uefa and its member organisations.

A cleaner wearing a protective suit sprays disinfectant at San Paolo stadium in Naples, Italy. Photo: AFP
In the English Premier League, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has tested positive for coronavirus, the club confirmed on Thursday, forcing fixtures at Manchester City and Brighton to be called off after several players came into contact with Evangelos Marinakis, the owner of Greek club Olympiakos, who contracted the virus.

A Chelsea player has also tested positive and three Leicester City first-team players have had to self-isolate after showing symptoms, while Italian soccer club Juventus also announced one of its players has Covid-19.

Also on Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Trump during a telephone call that the country was preparing to hold the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics as planned, despite the US president’s earlier suggestion that the Games be postponed for a year.

The start of the Indian Premier League, the world’s most lucrative cricket competition, has been postponed from March 29 until April 15 over the coronavirus, the Indian cricket board said.

The two-month Twenty20 competition is estimated to generate more than US$11 billion for the Indian economy and involves cricket’s top international stars.

This year’s Giro d’Italia cycling race has been postponed due to virus fears, organisers said. No new date for the first Grand Tour of the season has been announced but it was originally set for May 9-31.

Travel bans

Singapore on Friday said it will cease port calls for all cruise vessels with immediate effect, and bar the entry and transit of visitors with recent travel history to Italy, France, Spain and Germany, citing a “rapid spread” of the virus across Europe. This is an expansion of an existing ban on those entering from northern Italy, mainland China, South Korea and Iran.
National development Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs a multi-ministerial task force on the virus, urged Singaporeans to exercise caution when travelling to countries affected by the outbreak, including neighbouring Indonesia.

“We are concerned about countries with few reported cases of the virus but we already see exported cases from these countries and that includes countries around us,” he said.

Singapore PM says pandemic could last a year but city won’t be locked down

The city state, with 187 confirmed cases – 96 of whom have fully recovered – further announced increased restrictions on travellers who exhibit flu-like symptoms, with 14 days of self-quarantine in addition to the existing swab test. Future vents with more than 250 participants will also be postponed or cancelled.

Elsewhere, Australia on Friday warned citizens to reconsider all foreign travel, citing how widespread the pandemic is, and urged locals not gather in groups of more than 500 people, though this does not include schools, airports or public transport.

“We now advise all Australians to reconsider your need to travel overseas at this time, regardless of your destination, age or health,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Mount Everest has even been closed off amid the coronavirus epidemic. Photo: Reuters

The country has recorded 156 infections and three deaths from the flu-like disease but authorities expect this to increase rapidly in the coming weeks with the arrival of the southern hemisphere’s winter.

Cambodia announced on Friday that it was temporarily closing entry to all sea and river cruises to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Cambodia has confirmed five cases of the respiratory disease, including three British passengers in the last week who were aboard a Mekong river cruise ship. The south-east Asian nation made international headlines last month after allowing a Holland America cruise ship to dock after several ports in Asia turned the ship away due to coronavirus fears.

Nepal on Friday halted climbing on all mountains in the country and stopped issuing tourists visas amid the pandemic. The suspension of permits to climb Mount Everest closed off the world’s biggest mountain a day after China halted access from its side.

Additional reporting by Reuters, Bloomberg, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Dewey Sim, Kyodo