Coronavirus: Latest updates from across the world

Countries across the world are taking measures to halt the spread of coronavirus. It has infected hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.

Here are some updates:

– INDONESIA

Istiqlal grand mosque in the capital, Jakarta, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, which is usually packed with thousands of Muslims during Friday prayers, decided to cancel mass prayers for the next two weeks to curb coronavirus spread.

The mosque’s imam, Nasaruddin Umar, said the decision was made following a nationwide ruling issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s highest religious authority on Monday, allowing Muslims to temporarily skip mass prayers in regions where the virus has spread “uncontrollably” until the situation returns to normal.

Virus Outbreak Indonesia
A Muslim man prays at Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia (Tatan Syuflana/AP)

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“Prayers in congregations will be suspended in Istiqlal for the next two weeks, including Friday prayers,” Umar said in a video statement televised nationally in the world’s most populous Muslim country.

“We appeal people not to hold mass prayers in other region[s] where the coronavirus had spread until the danger for the contagion disappears,” he said.

His appeal following orders from President Joko Widodo to the people in the world’s most populous Muslis nation to curb mass religious gatherings to contain the coronavirus.

The move came as Indonesia reported 25 deaths from Covid-19, the most in Southeast Asia, and its biggest daily jump of 82 cases to 309.

– IRAN

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Hassan Rouhani in separate new year messages vowed to overcome the coronavirus and increase economic growth.

Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, called the new year “the year of leaps in production” in Iran’s economy. He said the country’s 80 million people are in a position to boost domestic production alongside the country’s exports.

President Rouhani marked the new year, known as Nowruz, by promising a better economy and called the coronavirus “an uninvited destructive guest”.

Virus Outbreak Mideast Iran
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei poses for a portrait prior to delivering his message for the Iranian New Year, or Nowruz, in Tehran, Iran (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/AP)

The Iranian leaders’ optimistic tone stood in stark contrast to the devastation caused by the outbreak. The country has had 1,284 deaths out of 18,407 confirmed cases of the new virus.

Mr Rouhani has defended his government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak in the face of widespread criticism that officials acted too slowly and may have even covered up initial cases before infections rapidly spread across the country.

He reviewed what he referred to as achievements last year, which included shooting down a sophisticated US drone and missile strikes on US bases in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of a top Revolutionary Guard general in Baghdad.

He assured Iranians that his administration will keep “health” as its top priority in the new year and said his administration has stockpiled sufficient basic needs of the country “more than before”.

– SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabia announced early on Friday that it will shut down domestic air travel, buses, taxis and trains for the next two weeks, beginning on Saturday morning. The state-run Saudi Press Agency cited an anonymous official at the Interior Ministry making the announcement.

– MEXICO

The United States and Mexico are working on plans to halt much of cross-border travel without disrupting trade during the coronavirus outbreak, officials have said.

Mexican foreign relations secretary Marcelo Ebrard said he proposed steps to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo that “won’t paralyse economic activity and keep the border open to commerce and work”. He promised details on Friday.

Pompeo said on Twitter that he was working closely with his Mexican counterpart “on travel restrictions that balance protecting our citizens from further transmission of #COVID19. Together, we can reduce public health risks and prioritise essential cross-border commerce and trade.”

US Customs and Border Protection officials briefed business leaders on Thursday on plans to prohibit non-essential travel, similar to a measure announced earlier this week on the Canadian border, said Paola Avila, chairwoman of the Border Trade Alliance, a business group.

The measure would effectively close the US to all tourist and recreational visits along the Mexican border, said  Avila, who participated in a conference call with CBP officials. Administration officials said the US would announce it as early as Friday, though details were still being worked out and subject to change, she said.

US officials provided a long list of “essential” workers who would be unaffected going to and from their jobs, including farm workers, restaurant and grocery store employees and bus drivers, said Avila. Mexico is preparing similar restrictions on visitors from the United States.

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