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Qatar has become the latest Middle Eastern country to report its first case of coronavirus.

The patient, a 36-year-old man, returned from Iran, which has the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths outside China.

The news on Saturday comes amid growing concerns in the Gulf, with Saudi Arabia having recently halted travel to holy sites such as Mecca and Medina.

Meanwhile, in the Asia Pacific, South Korea urged citizens to stay indoors as it warned of a “critical moment” in its battle against the coronavirus after recording the biggest daily jump in infections, with 813 new cases taking the tally to 3,150 with 17 new deaths.

Seoul is grappling with the largest outbreak of the virus outside China, the epicentre of the deadly disease. The National Health Commission reported on Saturday at least 47 new deaths, bringing to 2,835 the number of fatalities nationwide among 79,251 confirmed cases.


In Europe, Italy has reported 888 coronavirus cases and 18 deaths, the most in Europe.

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the spread of the virus is “getting bigger”. More than 85,000 people have been infected worldwide. 

Here are the latest updates:

Saturday, February 29

11:26 GMT - Qatar reports first case of coronavirus

Qatar’s health ministry has reported the first case of coronavirus infection in the country, according to the state-run Qatar News Agency (QNA).

The patient is a 36-year-old Qatari man who was recently evacuated from Iran on a government-chartered plane and had been in quarantine with other evacuees, QNA reported. The health ministry said the infected man is in stable condition.

10:55 GMT - Taiwan accuses China of waging cyberwar to disrupt virus fight

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu has accused China of using “cyber warriors” to wage a “war” on the island and disrupt its fight against the coronavirus with fake news. 

The coronavirus outbreak has strained already poor ties between Taipei and Beijing, which claims the island as part of China. Taiwan says China has blocked its efforts to participate with the WHO independently. 

10:00 GMT - Iran reports nine more deaths 

Iran’s health ministry has said 205 new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the country in the last 24 hours, with nine more deaths reported. 

The new numbers bring the total deaths in the country to 43 among 593 cases. 

09:40 GMT - North Korea calls for stronger anti-virus efforts

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for stronger anti-virus efforts to guard against COVID-19, saying there will be “serious consequences” if the illness spreads to the country.

During a governing party meeting, Kim called for the country’s anti-epidemic headquarters to strengthen screening and tests to seal off all “channels and space through which the infectious disease may find its way”, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said. 

Kim said all fields and units of the country should “unconditionally” obey quarantine instructions laid-out by the anti-epidemic headquarters, according to The Associated Press news agency. 

An undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on February 15 shows people in protective suits spraying disinfectant at an undisclosed location in the country [AFP]

09:25 GMT - Saudi Arabia calls on citizens to postpone Lebanon travel

Saudi Arabia called on its citizens and residents to postpone travel to Lebanon over concerns of the spread of coronavirus, the Saudi embassy in Lebanon said on Twitter on Saturday.

Lebanon confirmed its fourth case of the virus on Friday and announced that it was closing all schools until March 8. 

09:10 GMT - Kuwait asks citizens to avoid travelling

Kuwait is calling on its citizens to avoid travelling over concerns of coronavirus contamination, a health ministry official said at a media conference.

The Gulf state has not registered any new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, she said. The total number of people infected with the virus in Kuwait is 45, the health ministry said on Friday, which has reported no deaths.

08:30 GMT - S Korea reports 219 new cases

There were 219 new coronavirus cases in South Korea, bringing the country’s total infections to 3,150, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

The new cases added to the 594 confirmed earlier in the day. Together they logged a record daily increase in infections since South Korea confirmed its first patient on January 20.

07:55 GMT - Russia asks citizens to avoid foreign travel

A senior Russian official has called on citizens of the country to refrain from non-essential travel abroad over fears about the growing number of coronavirus cases internationally.

Anna Popova, the head of Russia’s consumer health watchdog, told local news agencies that Russians should stay put to avoid contracting the virus, according to Reuters news agency. 

“In order to consider yourself protected today, first of all, possible future trips outside the native country need to be reduced as much as possible,” Popova said. “Now is a time when it is not worth leaving Russia.”

A family wearing face masks walk at Biblioteka Imeni Lenina Metro station in Moscow [Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP]

07:00 GMT - Taiwan reports five new cases 

Taiwan reported a jump of five cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, including four people who had contact with another patient in a hospital and one person returning from the Middle East, bringing Taiwan’s total to 39.

The government’s Central Epidemic Command Centre said a cleaner and three nurses were the four staff who had been infected at the hospital, which was treating another coronavirus case. The fifth new case is a woman in her 60s who went on a tour to Egypt and Dubai.

06:40 GMT - Australia bans foreign travellers from Iran

Australia’s health minister has said the country will ban foreign travellers arriving from Iran due to the country’s “high death rate” from coronavirus, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the ban will go into effect on March 1 and will last for 14 days. Australian citizens will be allowed to return from Iran during that time, but will be required to self isolate for 14 days, the newspaper reported. 

05:44 GMT - Uzbekistan Airways halts flights to Seoul 

Uzbekistan Airways will temporarily halt flights to the South Korean capital of Seoul from March 1 over concerns about a coronavirus outbreak in the Asian nation, the airline said on Saturday.

The airline halted flights to the Saudi Arabian cities of Jeddah and Medina over the growing number of virus infections in February. 

05:28 GMT - New coronavirus infection in Thailand takes tally to 42

Thailand recorded a new coronavirus infection, taking its tally to 42, a health official has said.

The newest case is a 21-year-old Thai salesman whose job brought him exposure to foreign tourists, Sukhum Kanchanaphimai, the permanent secretary of the health ministry, told a news conference.

This is Joseph Stepanskyin Doha taking over from Ted Regencia.

Here is a quick summary of the latest developments:

South Korea has reported 594 new coronavirus cases, the most reported infections in a single day since the outbreak began. The new numbers bring the total in the country to 2,931, with 17 deaths. 

Meanwhile, the United States has reported cases in California and Oregon of unknown origin, alarming health officials. 

Keep following us here for today’s latest updates. 

04:33 GMT - Japan to create fund to subsidise parents during school closure

Japan’s government plans to create a fund to help companies pay subsidies to workers who need to take days off to look after their children while schools are closed, the Nikkei business daily reported on Saturday, without citing sources.

The move comes after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday asked local authorities to shut schools from Monday in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

This means students will be out from Monday at least until the new academic year starts in early April, prompting Japanese parents, along with teachers and businesses, to scramble to find new ways to cope.

Infections from the virus in Japan have topped 200, with five deaths - including one on Friday of a man in his 70s. That excludes more than 700 infections and five more deaths from the quarantined cruise liner Diamond Princess, docked in Yokohama.

03:42 GMT - UN chief recommends ministers, diplomats skip meeting due to coronavirus risks - letter

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has recommended that ministers and diplomats skip a meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York next month due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

More than 7,000 people usually attend the annual meeting, officials said, which is dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. It is due to be held from March 9 to 20.

However, in a letter to the UN member states from the chair of the commission, Armenia’s UN Ambassador Mher Margaryan said Guterres had recommended that member states “shorten and scale down the session” and cancel dozens of side events.

02:45 GMT - Oregon reports first coronavirus case of unknown origin

The US state of Oregon has reported its first coronavirus case, which is of unknown origin.

According to the statement from Oregon health officials, the infected individual - identified as a resident of Washington County - had neither history of travel to a country where the virus was circulating, nor is believed to have had close contact with another confirmed case.

Public health officials are considering it a likely community-transmitted case, which means that the origin of the infection is unknown, the statement added.

Oregon is located just north of the state of California, which reported its second infection late on Friday - also of unknown origin. 

01:25 GMT - South Korea reports 594 new coronavirus cases, total hits 2,931

South Korea reported 594 new coronavirus cases, raising the country’s total infections to 2,931, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday.

00:42 GMT - China reports 427 new coronavirus cases, 47 deaths

Mainland China had 427 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Friday, the country’s National Health Commission said on Saturday, up from 327 cases a day earlier.

That brings the total accumulated number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 79,251.

The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 2,835 as of the end of Friday, up by 47 from the previous day.

Of the total number of deaths, at least 45 were from Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak. Of the 45 deaths in Hubei, 37 were from the city of Wuhan.

00:10 GMT - California confirms second coronavirus case

The US state of California has confirmed a second case of coronavirus.

“Now, we have a case who did not recently travel or come in contact with anyone known to be ill,” Sara Cody, the director of public health for Santa Clara County, near San Francisco, told reporters.

She said the second patient is a woman being treated at a hospital.

California said it was monitoring some 8,400 people as the US state confirms second coronavirus case [Josh Edelson/AFP]

23:19 GMT (Friday) - US urges citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Italy

The US on Friday warned against non-essential travel to Italy, a top destination for US tourists, over the growing coronavirus epidemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “recommends that travellers avoid all nonessential travel to Italy. There is limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas”, a statement said.

The State Department raised its travel advice a notch for Italy to “reconsider travel”.

23:04 GMT - US postpones summit with ASEAN leaders

The US will postpone a meeting with leaders of Southeast Asian countries it planned to host on March 14, amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, two US officials familiar with the matter said on Friday.

US President Donald Trump had invited leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian nations to meet in Las Vegas after he did not attend a summit with the group in Bangkok in November.

The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

19:50 GMT - Two South Africans test positive in Japan

Two South Africans on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a state-run medical institute.

“We confirm that these citizens are currently being treated in Japan and are in good care,” said a statement by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus from our bureau in Kuala Lumpur - Ted Regencia

Click here to read updates on Friday, February 28.