Iran's health ministry announced yesterday that 11 more people had died from the new coronavirus in the past day, bringing the Islamic republic's overall death toll to 77.
In all, 2,336 people have been infected, including 835 new cases -- the biggest increase in a single day since the COVID-19 outbreak began in the country nearly two weeks ago.
"According to the latest figures, 835 new patients have been added" to the overall number of infections, Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said in remarks aired live on state television.
"Unfortunately, we have 11 new deaths, and with this amount we have reached 2,336 new confirmed cases and a total of 77 dead."
Lawmaker Abdolreza Mesri said 23 members of parliament have been infected, according to state TV-affiliated website YJC. He did not specify when they had been infected, reports Reuters.
"Meetings between people and the representatives have been temporarily stopped," Mesri was quoted as saying.
Iran announced on February 19 its first two deaths from the coronavirus in Qom, a centre for Islamic studies and pilgrims from abroad.
It now has the highest death toll for any country outside China, where the virus has killed more than 2,900 people since late December.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Iranians to stick to hygiene guidelines to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading.
"The health care guidelines for preventing infection from this virus should be observed," Khamenei, who was wearing gloves as he planted a tree, said on state television.
The supreme leader said Iran was being transparent with its figures on the outbreak and accused other countries of trying to conceal them.
UK SETS OUT 'BATTLE PLAN'
Britain unveiled its "battle plan" to tackle the spread of coronavirus yesterday, warning that as many as a fifth of employees could be off work at the peak of the outbreak.
The United Kingdom has so far confirmed 51 cases of the virus, also known as COVID-19, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was "highly likely" the country would see a growing number of cases.
The government's plan includes possible school closures, home working and cancelling large-scale gatherings to slow the spread of the outbreak. Businesses could be given extra time to pay their taxes if they are facing short-term, cash flow issues.
"This is a national challenge ... I think we'll get through it in very good shape," Johnson told a news conference alongside England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and the government's Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance.
The government said its strategy was aimed at delaying the peak of the outbreak until the summer when the health service is under less seasonal pressure. This would also allow more time for the possible development of vaccines.
Options include discouraging unnecessary travel as part of what it called a "social distancing" strategy, delaying non-urgent healthcare, and drafting in retired healthworkers.
S KOREA DECLARES 'WAR'
South Korean President Moon Jae-in declared "war" against the coronavirus yesterday, as the country reported its biggest daily case increase to date, sending its total past 5,000 -- the largest in the world outside China.
The central bank has warned of a contraction in the first quarter for the world's 12th-largest economy, noting the epidemic will hit both consumption and exports.
Moon said the government will inject more than 30 trillion won ($25 billion) into the economy to address the "grave" situation brought on by the outbreak.
"The entire country has entered a war with the infectious disease," Moon said, ordering all government agencies to operate around the clock.
South Korea confirmed 851 new cases yesterday, taking the national total to 5,186, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, adding that two more people had died, raising the toll to 28, reports AFP.
While Italy has locked down towns, other countries have stopped short of imposing mass quarantines and instead have discouraged large gatherings, delayed sporting events and banned arrivals from virus-hit nations.
Twitter told staff across the world to work from home.
The number of cases in India went up to six with an Italian tourist in Jaipur tested positive.
US EYES TREATMENT
The White House, which has been accused of downplaying the threat from the virus, struck a bullish tone.
Vice President Mike Pence declared that a treatment "could literally be available by this summer, or early fall".
He was likely referring to remdesivir, an antiviral drug developed by the pharmaceutical firm Gilead that has already been used to treat one US patient and was moving toward two expansive final stage trials in Asia.
Pence also announced American pharmaceuticals were forming a consortium to fight the virus, and that South Korea and Italy would screen all their airline passengers bound for the US.
Despite its world-class hospitals and cutting-edge research, the US is viewed as vulnerable to an epidemic because of glaring disparities in healthcare availability, with nearly 28 million people without coverage.