BANGKOK (AP) — The Latest on the virus outbreak (all times local):
A school district north of Seattle with 22,000 students will close for up to two weeks because of coronavirus concerns.
All 26 schools in the Northshore School District will be closed for up to two weeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and protect vulnerable staff members, the district’s superintendent said in a letter to parents. The district is largely in Bothell, Washington, 20 miles north of Seattle.
There have been at least 39 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Seattle area. Ten people have died.
Northshore School District superintendent Michelle Reid said school officials will consult with health authorities on further recommendations.
The district had closed a high school for two days last week over concerns about coronavirus exposure. Reid said about 20% of students had been absent recently as parents decided to self-quarantine students at home.
South Africa has announced its first confirmed case of the new coronavirus.
Health Minister Zwele Mkhize said a 38-year-old man had returned this week from Italy with his wife and other travelers. He fell ill at his home in the KwaZulu-Natal province Tuesday and was tested. A health team is now getting in touch with all the people he had contact with.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will speak to the nation later Thursday about the health challenge posed by the virus.
South Africa is the first country in southern Africa and the third in sub-Saharan Africa to register a case of the new coronavirus. To date, seven countries in Africa have recorded cases: Algeria, Senegal, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco, Tunisia and South Africa.
Italy has placed temporary restrictions on visiting relatives in nursing homes and is urging the elderly not to go outside unless absolutely necessary.
The Italian government, which closed schools nationwide to try to contain the coronavirus, has opened a campaign to urge ordinary Italians to do their part to limit infections given that Italy’s elderly population risks overwhelming the public health system with virus cases.
Italy, the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe, has the world’s oldest population after Japan. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 virus. The 107 people who have died so far in Italy are all elderly, sick with other complications or both.
In a decree that takes effect Thursday, the government is limiting access to the elderly in nursing homes to prevent possible contagion.
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte justified the extraordinary measure of closing schools and universities nationwide until March 15 by warning that there might not be enough intensive care units to treat patients if the virus continues its “exponential” spread.
Facebook says it’s temporarily closing an office in Seattle after a worker was diagnosed with the new virus.
“A contractor based in our Stadium East office has been diagnosed with the COVID-19,” the company said. “We’ve notified our employees and are following the advice of public health officials to prioritize everyone’s health and safety.”
Facebook said the last time the worker came to the office was on Feb. 21, so it will shut the office until March 9, when the incubation period ends. The company is following guidance from local authorities and encouraging Seattle staff to work from home until March 31.
An Amazon employee at the e-commerce giant’s Seattle office also reportedly tested positive for the virus this week.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says Japan will impose a 14-day quarantine on all visitors from China and South Korea before they are allowed an entry permit.
They will be sent to a government facility for the quarantine and will not be allowed to use public transportation, Abe said Thursday as officials stepped up their efforts against the spread of the virus.
Japan has more than 1,050 confirmed cases, including 706 from a quarantined cruise ship, as transmission inside Japan has accelerated. Abe said the current week or two is a crucial time for Japan to get the outbreak under control as his government faces pressure to contain the virus ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
Authorities in Switzerland say a 74-year-old woman infected with the new virus has died, the first confirmed death in the country.
The Federal Office of Public Health said Thursday that the death was reported by authorities in the western canton of Vaud. The woman had been hospitalized since Tuesday.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 58 infections had been confirmed in Switzerland.
Sri Lankan health authorities say they have decided to quarantine all Sri Lankan passengers arriving from Italy, South Korea and Iran for 14 days.
They will be quarantined at a center to be set up at a state-run hospital formerly used to treat leprosy patients on the outskirts of the capital, Colombo. Soldiers are now converting the hospital into a quarantine center.
Sri Lanka officially eliminated leprosy in 1995 and the facility was used for the country’s 16 remaining patients, who will now be transferred to another hospital.
More than 104,000 Sri Lankans reside in Italy, with more than 60% in the Lombardy region that has been hit hard by the virus. More than 20,000 Sri Lankans reside in South Korea.
The virus outbreak couldn’t have come at a worse time for millions of Hindus who are preparing to celebrate Holi, the festival in which people smear each others’ faces with colorful powder.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Hindu nationalist leaders said they won’t attend any celebrations on March 10 because of the coronavirus outbreak and are advising people to exercise restraint.
Modi tweeted that he would not celebrate Holi as experts have advised that mass gatherings should be reduced.
Community leaders are canceling street celebrations as well as large gatherings of people in condominiums.
Across India and Nepal and in countries with Indian migrants, Hindus celebrate Holi, the joyous festival of color, smearing one another with red and yellow powders and spraying each other with squirt guns. Water-filled balloons are also used to color each other.
China says a visit by its president, Xi Jinping, to Japan has been called off because both countries are focusing on combating the virus outbreak.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian says the two sides will be in close communication about a new time for the visit.
“The two countries both agree that President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan must take place under the most appropriate timing, environment and atmosphere, and must be a complete success,” Zhao said at a daily news briefing on Thursday.
The visit had been expected in April.
China has striven to improve ties with Japan as both come under U.S. tariffs meant to punish them for their trade practices. However, mutual suspicion runs high on both sides, driven in China primarily by memories of Japan’s brutal occupation of parts of the country last century and China’s claim to islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan.