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Japan to close schools, Korea see biggest rise in infections

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Seoul reports 505 new cases in one day, while nine new countries report infections

TOKYO : Japan will close all schools for several weeks, South Korea, with the largest number infected with the coronavirus outside China, saw its biggest jump in figures, and Iran recorded seven new deaths bringing its toll to 26, the most outside China.

In Europe too, the virus is spreading as more countries are reporting their first infections.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday urged schools nationwide to close for several weeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as the authorities reported the country's fourth death linked to the outbreak.

"The government considers the health and safety of children above anything else," Mr Abe said.

"We request all primary, junior high and high schools... across the nation to close temporarily from March 2 until their spring break."

The spring break for public schools usually starts late next month and lasts several weeks.

The authorities have said the coming two to three weeks will be critical in determining whether they can stem the outbreak that has infected nearly 200 people in the country.

South Korea reported 505 additional coronavirus infections in its largest daily increase yesterday.

The new cases take total infections to 1,766, the Korea Centres for Disease Control & Prevention (KCDC) said - the largest daily jump since the first confirmed infection on Jan 20.

South Korea also reported a 13th death. Of the new cases, 422 were in the south-eastern city of Daegu, the location of a church at the centre of South Korea's outbreak, the KCDC said in a statement.

China reported 433 new cases on Wednesday, the National Health Commission said yesterday, up from 406 a day earlier.

China now has nearly 78,500 people infected and the outbreak has killed more than 2,700 people.

It is now exploring the possibility of adopting "targeted prevention and control measures" for people arriving from abroad, China's Foreign Ministry said, while those arriving in Beijing from countries hit by the epidemic will have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

While Iran does not have as many infections as South Korea, it has the most deaths outside China.

NINE NEW COUNTRIES HIT

Iran's Health Ministry announced seven new deaths, bringing the total to 26.

Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 106 more cases of the disease had been confirmed, raising the tally of infections to 245.

Italy, the virus epicentre in Europe, saw two new deaths bring the total to 14.

The number of infected people has risen to 528 from some 420 announced on Wednesday.

The virus has also appeared in nine new countries - Romania, Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Georgia, Greece, Norway, Pakistan and Switzerland - bringing the number of countries hit to more than 45. - AFP, REUTERS

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