Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is in isolation at a hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus. He returned to Australia on Sunday from Washington, D.C., where he met U.S. Attorney-General William Barr and President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, last week.
Dutton also attended a conference with other representatives of the Five Eyes intelligence network, which includes the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.
Dutton said Friday he was in isolation in a hospital after confirmation he has the virus.
Australian authorities have stepped up their response to the outbreak by recommending people avoid nonessential gatherings of 500 or more and to reconsider all international travel.
Australia has more than 120 confirmed cases. It is mild to moderate for most people but can be severe in older adults and those with existing health problems.
Japan’s parliament enacted a law Friday that would allow Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare a state of emergency if the coronavirus outbreak worsens in the country.
The law is controversial because it can severely limit civil rights. It allows Abe to order legally binding school closures, confiscate private property to build medical facilities, order shipments of emergency supplies and take other measures related to the outbreak.
Government officials said there is no immediate plan to declare a state of emergency, but Abe is expected to make a decision based on experts’ latest evaluation of the outbreak.
Japan has 675 confirmed cases, not including 697 others from a quarantined cruise ship.
Thailand’s health minister has ignited controversy by warning about the possible spread of the coronavirus from vacationing Europeans who wear dirty clothes and don’t shower.
Tweets posted Thursday night by the account linked to Anutin Charnvirakul lashed out at Western visitors for not wearing face masks to protect against the virus and warned his fellow Thais that they should be more careful in dealing with Westerners than with Asians.
Thailand’s government has come under criticism for confusing and inconsistent handling of the health crisis.
A spokesman for Anutin’s Bhumjai Thai Party confirmed that the Twitter account under the name ‘anutin_c’ was operated by the minister’s team.
The tweets, along with the entire account, disappeared from Twitter by Friday afternoon.
Anutin early last month castigated Westerners who would not accept protective face masks from him, suggesting they be kicked out of the country.
The Spanish royal palace says King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia have tested negative for the coronavirus.
The royal couple took the test on Thursday after the government confirmed the infection of Equality Minister Irene Montero, who had attended an event with the queen last week.
Another Cabinet member was also confirmed to be infected after all the Cabinet was tested.
In a statement on Friday, Spain’s Royal House said the queen will suspend all her activities and her temperature will be regularly checked.
German states are beginning to close down schools as a precautionary measure to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
The southern state of Bavaria, the western state of Saarland and city-state of Berlin all announced measures on Friday, and others were expected to later in the day.
Bavarian Gov. Markus Soeder also said the state is implementing strict restrictions on visits to hospitals, retirement homes and other facilities where people may be particularly vulnerable.
He says he’s convinced Germany will weather the crisis, but that the success of government efforts would depend greatly upon “social cohesion” from citizens.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and state governors late Thursday agreed on other measures to prepare for further infections, including asking hospitals to postpone any non-essential operations or other procedures to keep beds and facilities free for coronavirus patients.
Bulgaria’s parliament has declared a state of emergency to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Lawmakers on Friday voted unanimously to approve the government’s proposal for a 30-day state of emergency across the country, citing a threat to the health of the population.
Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said this will allow the government to shut down schools, kindergartens, universities, concert halls, night clubs and discos.
Borisov said parliament should vote on penalties for people ordered into quarantine who do not follow procedures.
A ban will be imposed on travel to certain countries, and people from countries with a high rate of infections will be banned from entering the country. The foreign ministry was to announce later Friday the list of countries to which travel is barred, while the health ministry will name those from which visitors are banned.
Bulgaria has reported 23 coronavirus cases, with one death.
Authorities in Kenya say a woman has tested positive for the new coronavirus, the first case in the East African country.
Muhahi Kagwe, Kenya’s health secretary, told reporters on Friday that the patient, a Kenyan citizen, is a woman who recently traveled from the United States via London.
The Kenyan case is the first in the East African region, where governments have been ramping up control measures as the virus spreads across the world.
The West and Central African nations of Ghana and Gabon also announced their first confirmed cases of the disease.
Ghana Minister of Health Kwaku Agyeman-Manu said two people who returned from Norway and Turkey tested positive and are in isolation. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has said that $100 million will be spent on enhancing the country’s preparedness and response plan. All foreign travel for government officials has been suspended, except for critical assignments.
Gabon late Thursday also announced its first confirmed case of the virus in a 27-year-old who returned to Gabon on March 8 after staying in Bordeaux, France. Prime Minister has said that Gabon has placed at least 30 people from countries hit by the virus in quarantine, but none has tested positive.
Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Cameroon and Togo in the west and central African region have also recorded cases.
South Korea plans to limit the amount of information it releases about coronavirus patients amid criticism that the details currently shared reveal too much personal information and exacerbate panic.
The director of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jung Eun-kyeong, said Friday her agency is drafting a new guideline for local governments to prevent them from releasing details that are unnecessary for quarantine and prevention work.
She didn’t say what specific recommendations would be included in the guideline.
South Korean health authorities have been actively using personal information — including immigration, public transportation, credit card, and smartphone GPS data — to track patients and their contacts.
Details about the places patients visited before testing positive are posted online and shared through smartphone alerts to inform people who may have been in their vicinity.
South Korea’s Human Rights Commission on Monday raised concerns about the release of the data, saying patients were being exposed to “criticism, ridicule, and hate.”
Some people have used the information to identify the patients and have publicly condemned them for moving around while sick.
There are concerns that the release of the detailed information is worsening panic and discouraging sick people from coming forward. A recent survey by Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Public Health found that many people were more afraid of being stigmatized as a virus patient than of catching the virus itself.
Norway has reported its first death from the coronavirus. Prime Minister Erna Solberg said “an elderly person” died Thursday in Oslo, without elaborating.
Protectively, King Harald V, members of the royal family and some government members have been put in quarantine because they had traveled abroad in recent weeks.
In Denmark, lawmakers have passed a temporary law under which authorities can force people who are suspected of having the virus to undergo tests. The law, which is to expire in March 2021, also gives authorities the ability to ban access to public places and stores.
The Danish government has already closed all schools and daycare facilities and ordered government workers who do not perform critical functions to stay home for the next two weeks,
Denmark’s popular Queen Margrethe has canceled all events around her 80th birthday on April 16.
Estonia has declared a state of emergency, meaning no events can take place in public areas.
“The emergency situation is necessary to stand against the spread of the coronavirus in Estonia in the most efficient manner,” Prime Minister Juri Ratas said late Thursday. “The state must be able to give citizens clear and if necessary mandatory instructions that would help to put a limit to the spread of the virus,” Ratas said, according to the Baltic News Service, the region’s main news agency.
He said he understands the inconvenience caused by declaring a state of emergency, “but what is at stake is not the protection of just people’s health, but also lives.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping has told the U.N. that his nation wants to conduct joint research on drugs and vaccines and offer “as much assistance as it can” to countries where the novel coronavirus is spreading.
State media reported Friday that Xi told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres by phone that economic and daily life are gradually returning to normal in China thanks to “arduous endeavors” at prevention and control.
Xi was quoted as saying: “The Chinese people will definitely prevail over the COVID-19 epidemic and will also definitely realize its intended targets for economic and social development.”
He was also quoted as saying that the Chinese people’s “hard work has won precious time and made important contributions to other countries’ epidemic prevention and control.”
China, where the virus was first discovered, recorded just eight new infections on Friday.
The Indonesian government is overseeing a campaign to clean 10,000 mosques around the country as part of its bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The cleaning campaign kicked off Friday at the Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta and was witnessed by President Joko Widodo and other officials.
Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi called on officers at mosques nationwide to roll up the carpets and spray disinfectant. The minister also called on worshippers at mosques to avoid any form of physical contact.
Razi said: “We temporarily recommend not to doing handshaking, kissing on the cheek or other body contact as it is the medium of the transmission.”
Singapore has tightened measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus including expanding border controls, banning cruise ships and limiting mass gatherings.
From Sunday, travelers from Italy, Spain, France and Germany will not be allowed to enter the Southeast Asian city-state. Singapore earlier banned those from South Korea, Iran and China.
The Health Ministry said Friday that travelers who showed symptoms but tested negative for COVID-19 will now have to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days.
With immediate effect, it said Singapore will also cease port calls for all cruise vessels.
In addition, it said all ticketed cultural, sports and entertainment events with 250 participants or more are to be deferred or canceled. For all other mass gatherings, including private functions and religious services, it urged organizers to ensure precautionary measures are taken including registering details of participants for possible contact tracing.