School officials check the temperatures of students before they enter a school in Tangerang on Tuesday. AFP
More than 97,000 people have been infected and over 3,300 have died worldwide from the virus, which by Thursday had reached more than 80 countries and territories.
Health officials check students' temperatures before their exams, amid fears about the spread of the COVID-19, in Bangkok. AP
Britain and Switzerland also reported their first deaths from the outbreak on Thursday, while Bosnia and South Africa confirmed their first cases.
Most deaths and infections are still in China, where the virus first emerged late last year, prompting the country to quarantine entire cities, temporarily shut factories and close schools indefinitely.
But infections are now rising faster abroad than inside China, with South Korea, with Iran and Italy emerging as hotspots.
Students wear facemasks, amid fears of the spread of the COVID-19, during a lunch break at an office and commercial tower in Bangkok. AFP
The US state of California declared an emergency following its first coronavirus fatality — raising the US death toll to 11 — and a cruise ship was kept offshore after passengers and crew members developed symptoms.
The number of confirmed virus cases in Greece surged after 21 travellers recently returned from a bus trip to Israel and Egypt tested positive for the virus.
France also reported a stiff jump in cases, bringing its total to 377, and two additional deaths that edged the country total to six.
Several countries have implemented extraordinary measures, with UNESCO saying on Wednesday that school closures in more than a dozen countries have affected 290.5 million children.
Elementary school students carry their belongings as they are on their way to home in Tokyo. AP
India later announced it was closing all primary schools in the capital New Delhi until the end of March to prevent the virus from spreading.
The orders came as an India-EU summit scheduled for March 13 was also postponed.
While temporary school closures during crises are not new, UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay said "the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education."
Italy has ordered schools and universities shut until March 15, and on Thursday reported a sharp rise in coronavirus deaths, bringing the total to 148.
South Korea — second only to China in terms of infections with cases jumping past 6,000 on Thursday — has postponed the start of the next term until March 23, while in Japan nearly all schools are closed until early April.
Schools have also shut in Iran, where 107 people have died from the disease.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Thursday that several countries were not showing "the level of political commitment" needed to "match the level of the threat we all face."
"This is not a drill," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters. "This epidemic is a threat for every country, rich and poor."
The comments come as the impact of the virus rapidly ripples across sectors.
The airline industry could lose up to $113 billion (101 billion euros) in revenue this year due to the impact of the new coronavirus, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned, as governments issue travel restrictions or ban visitors from virus hotspots.
Beijing is now concerned about importing cases, with 20 infections brought in from abroad so far -- prompting several cities to require people arriving from hard-hit countries to self-quarantine.
The outbreak's rapid spread has prompted fears of a global economic downturn and rumbled global stock markets, with Europe's major exchanges sinking again Thursday.
Headmaster of Rome's secondary classics school Giulio Cesare, Paola Senesi walks next to chairs disposed at security distance to each other. AFP
The IMF said earlier it was making $50 billion in aid available for low-income and emerging-market countries to fight the epidemic, which it sees as a "serious threat" that it said would slow global growth to below last year's 2.9 percent.
"At a time of uncertainty... it is better to do more than to do not enough," IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said.
Italy on Thursday unveiled a 7.5-billion-euro ($8.4-billion) economic rescue plan to deal with the impact of the virus, and in the United States, lawmakers reached a deal to provide more than $8 billion to fight the outbreak.
Thousands of people remained stranded on the Grand Princess cruise ship off the California coast Wednesday as officials carried out tests on people on board.
A 71-year-old man who had been aboard the same ship during its previous voyage to Mexico died after contracting COVID-19.
The vessel belongs to Princess Cruises, the same company which operated a coronavirus-stricken ship held off Japan last month on which more than 700 people on board tested positive, with six dying from the disease.
The US federal government said it was going to buy 500 million respirators to stockpile for use by healthcare professionals as California declared its state of emergency over the virus.
Elsewhere, governments ramped up their own responses.
Japan said it will quarantine all arrivals from China and South Korea for two weeks, while the United Arab Emirates warned its citizens to "avoid travelling."Agence France-Presse
Coronavirus concerns led Saudi Arabia to cut off air and sea travel with Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, South Korea, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. The kingdom had earlier closed off its land borders as well.
"We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterised as a pandemic," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference on Wednesday.
The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) nationals wishing to enter the UAE should undergo COVID-19 medical test and place themselves under house quarantine for 14 days, said a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Friday.
Several Arab ambassadors praised the UAE’s humanitarian initiative to evacuate citizens of friendly countries from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak, and host them in a humanitarian city in the country, to ensure their safety and recovery and provide them treatment.
The police have fished a man out of the Seine River where he dived after ramming a car into a luxury Valentino store and stealing dozens of luxury bags in Paris.
First lady Jill Biden tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing "mild symptoms,” the White House announced on Tuesday. President Joe Biden continues to test negative after recently recovering from the virus but will wear a mask indoors for 10 days as a precaution.
According to the case papers the husband tried to kill his wife but his two children tried to save their mother and one of them called the police.