Emergency declared in California as cruise ship delayed off shore

Here's the latest on the coronavirus outbreak.
Image: The Grand Princess cruise ship passes the Golden Gate Bridge as it arrives from Hawaii in San Francisco
The Grand Princess cruise ship passes the Golden Gate Bridge as it arrives from Hawaii in San Francisco on Feb. 11, 2020.Scott Strazzante / AP file

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California has declared an emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, as tests continue Thursday on board a Princess cruise ship that has been linked to two cases of the illness in the state.

The first death in California related to coronavirus was confirmed Wednesday, while another fatality in Washington brought that state's death toll to 10.

Congressional leaders have agreed on an $8 billion emergency funding package to help fight the coronavirus that is headed to the House.

The virus is now spreading more rapidly outside China, where the epidemic started, with mainland China recording just 119 new confirmed cases while hundreds of cases were reported globally.

South Korea alone recorded an additional 516 cases of coronavirus Wednesday, bringing the total to 5,328 confirmed cases, the largest outbreak outside of mainland China.

Governments around the world are introducing a range of measures to stop the spread of the disease. In Italy, where there have been more than 2,000 cases, all schools and colleges are shut for 10 days.

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'The president is right' to compare coronavirus prevention to flu, WHO chief says

The director-general of the World Health Organization said that President Donald Trump was right when he compared some approaches to preventing the coronavirus to the flu.

"You treat this like a flu," Trump said Wednesday at a news briefing. "You want to wash your hands a lot, you want to, if you're not feeling well, if you feel you have a flu, stay inside."

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus agreed with this advice. 

"If I am asked to advise the communities to prevent this virus, I would give them the same advice as what you give to flu: wash your hands with water and soap, and also don't rub your face, and also six feet distance," Tedros said during a media briefing Thursday. "I think with that regard, especially absent of vaccines and so on, in people taking care of themselves, it's the same."

Tedros added, "Scientifically, you can say it's not flu." 

But "there are many things in common, and you can prevent it using the basic things we use to prevent flu, so the president is right to say that," he said. 

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offered similar advice at the news conference Wednesday as Trump.

"The coronavirus that we’re talking about is a respiratory virus. It’s spread in a similar way to the common cold or to influenza," Schuchat said. "Those everyday sensible measures that we tell people to do every year with the flu are important here. Covering your cough, staying home when you’re sick, and washing your hands." 

Right now, one of the biggest differences between the coronavirus and the flu is that while the flu is well understood, predictable and has a vaccine, there are many unknowns about the coronavirus. 

"We don't know this virus," Dr. Bruce Alyward, leader of the WHO joint mission with China to study the virus, said at a news briefing Tuesday. "We don't know what's going to happen next."

Students at Prince George’s school are being tested for coronavirus

Some students at the London school attended by the U.K.'s Prince George and Princess Charlotte have stayed home as they await test results for coronavirus, NBC News has confirmed.      

Although the exact number of children staying home is not known, Thomas's Battersea school remains open.

It is unclear whether the son and daughter of Prince William, Britain's second in line to the thrown, and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, have stayed home. George, 6, and Charlotte, 4, are the great grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth II.      

Most London schools are asking students who have visited China or other areas impacted by the virus to stay home if they exhibit any flu-like symptoms. 

U.S. firms in China expect a reduction in revenues

Nearly half of U.S. businesses based in China expect to lose revenues if the effects of the coronavirus outbreak continue after Apr. 30, according to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in the country.

The results showed that 10 percent of its 169 member companies were losing at least 500 thousand yuan ($71,345) per day because of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

One in five respondents predicted 2020 revenues will decline by more than 50 percent if the virus epidemic extends through August 30. 

Muslim pilgrims wear masks at the Grand Mosque in Mecca

Muslim pilgrims wear masks at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on Feb. 27, 2020. Saudi Arabia suspended visas for visits to Islam's holiest sites for the "umrah" pilgrimage, an unprecedented move triggered by coronavirus fears that raises questions over the annual hajj.Abdulgani Basheer / AFP - Getty Images

Three senior Iranian officials diagnosed with coronavirus

Three members of the Iranian Parliament were confirmed on Thursday to have coronavirus, according to videos released by officials. 

Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani and  Mojtaba Zonnouri from the holy city of Qom, and Mahmoud Sadeghi from capital Tehran were confirmed to have contracted the virus. 

"In the name of God the compassionate and the merciful, my coronavirus test has came positive. It's an epidemic," Zonnour said in a video. "God willing, our nation will defeat corona and coronavirus will be overwhelmed by our people."

Iran’s Health Ministry announced 245 new cases of the virus on Thursday, up from 139 the day before. Officials also put the number of those dead at 26, up from 19 on Wednesday.

Coronavirus cases jump to 1,766 in South Korea

South Korean authorities announced 1,766 cases of coronavirus on Thursday, up from the 1,261 reported a day earlier, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDCP). 

The KCDCP also reported 13 deaths on Thursday, up from 12 Wednesday.

There are currently 21 confirmed cases within South Korea’s military, Kim Joon Rak, the Director of South Korea’s Public Affairs Office told NBC News on Thursday.

Japan to close schools nationwide to control spread of virus, AP reports

TOKYO — Japan will close all elementary, junior and high schools after a plea by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, government officials said on Thursday.

The measure affects 12.8 million students at 34,847 schools nationwide, the education ministry said, according to the Associated Press. 

“The coming week or two is an extremely important time,” Abe said. “This is to prioritize the health and safety of the children and take precautions to avoid the risk of possible large-scale infections for many children and teachers who gather and spend hours together every day.”

Children wearing face masks play at Ueno park in Tokyo on Feb. 23, 2020.Athit Perawongmetha / Reuters

The decision comes amid growing concern about the rise in the number of untraceable cases of the virus in northern Japan and elsewhere. Japan now has more than 890 cases, including 705 from a quarantined cruise ship.

An eighth death from the virus was confirmed Thursday in Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido, now considered a site of growing cluster.

Abe's announcement came hours after several local governments announced their own decisions to suspend classes.

McDonalds workers don protective suits amid coronavirus outbreak

McDonalds workers wear protective suits as they deliver food in the epidemic's epicenter of Hubei province on Wednesday. AFP - Getty Images

U.S. and South Korea postpone joint military operations

Joint South Korean-U.S. military drills planned for the first half of this year have been postponed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, South Korean and U.S. officials said on Thursday. 

"The containment efforts of COVID-19 and the safety of [the Republic of Korea] and U.S. service members were prioritized in making this decision,” the military officers said during a news conference in Seoul.

The U.S. military reported its first case of coronavirus on Wednesday at the Camp Carroll Army Base, which is located 12 miles from Daegu, where most of South Korea’s cases have been reported.

U.S. military officials from the Army Garrison Humphreys camp in South Korea provided an update on measures in a video posted on Facebook.

Saudi Arabia halts pilgrimages over virus

Saudi Arabia announced on Thursday that it was suspending entry for the Umrah pilgrimage and tourism from countries where the new coronavirus has spread.

The ban is part of measures to prevent coronavirus from entering the Kingdom, according to a statement released on the Foreign Ministry's official Twitter account. 

Officials also said that the suspensions were temporary but provided no timeframe for their expiry. It was unclear if the hajj pilgrimage, which is scheduled to begin in late July, would be impacted.