Virus at ‘decisive point’ as world battles spread: WHO Feb 28, 2020 0 345 12345 AFPGenevaThe World Health Organization declared on Thursday that the new coronavirus epidemic was at a “decisive point” as countries across the globe battled to contain the deadly outbreak.Saudi Arabia banned pilgrims from visiting Islam’s holiest sites as the number of deaths jumped in neighbouring Iran, while Japan and Iraq ordered the closure of schools.Alarm is growing as China is no longer the only breeding ground for COVID-19, with other countries including South Korea and Italy becoming hotbeds of infection, raising fears of a pandemic.“We’re at a decisive point,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference in Geneva. “If you act aggressively now, you can contain this virus, you can prevent people getting sick, you can save lives.” The virus has already killed more than 2,760 people, mostly in China -- where it first emerged in December -- and infected more than 81,000 in over 45 countries.But there are now more daily cases being recorded outside China, raising fears that poor countries with weak health infrastructures would not be able to cope. “It’s what’s happening in the rest of the world that’s now our greatest concern,” Tedros said.World financial markets have plunged on fears that widespread lockdowns could hamper business activity and dent global growth, while sports matches and festivals have been cancelled to try to stem infections.The EU said it was bracing for an economic hit, with tourism already feeling the pinch and supply chains reliant on China also being affected.And President Emmanuel Macron said France, the world’s most visited country which has recorded two deaths, was preparing for a jump in cases. “We are facing a crisis, an epidemic that is coming,” he said.Hubei officials have been accused of initially covering up the outbreak and silencing a whistleblowing doctor who later died from the disease.WHO’s Tedros said all countries should ensure their health systems were prepared.“We are actually in a very delicate situation in which the outbreak can go in any direction based on how we handle it.” Pages 123 RELATED ARTICLES PAKISTAN CELEBRATES ONE YEAR AFTER DOWNING INDIAN JET Feb 28, 2020 0 1673 Trump downplays epidemic fears of new coronavirus Feb 28, 2020 0 1607 Erdogan denounces ‘massacres’ in India over citizenship law, toll rises to 33 Feb 28, 2020 0 1615 covid Malaysian parliament to vote on new PM amid crisis Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia’s parliament will vote on Monday on the country’s next prime minister in a bid to end a political crisis, but if no candidate has enough support there will be a snap election, Mahathir Mohamad said. .. Japan PM calls for nationwide closure of schools over virus Tokyo: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday urged schools nationwide to close for several weeks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, as authorities reported the country’s fourth death linked to the .. New South Korean virus infections exceed new cases in China Seoul: South Korea on Thursday reported 505 new infections from the coronavirus, a greater number of new cases than were reported in China for the same period. The new infections bring the total number of cases in South .. Assange’s UK extradition hearing paused until May London: A British judge on Thursday paused Julian Assange’s extradition hearing following four days of intense legal wrangling over Washington’s request for the WikiLeaks founder to stand trial there on espionage .. Far-left German MPs accuse Merkel over Soleimani killing AFP Frankfurt am Main Eight MPs from Germany’s radical-left Left party said on Thursday they had filed a criminal complaint against Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ministers, accusing them of complicity in the US .. Indonesians stranded after Saudi Arabia bans religious pilgrims Jakarta: More than 6,000 Muslim pilgrims were stranded at Indonesian airports on Thursday after Saudi Arabia suspended the entry of visitors seeking to worship in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in an attempt to .. US urges India to allow peaceful assembly after riots THE United States on Thursday urged India to respect the right to peaceful assembly and called on all sides to refrain from violence. “We echo (Modi’s) call for calm and normalcy and urge all parties to maintain peace, .. US, South Korea postpone joint military exercises over virus AFP Seoul The US and South Korean militaries on Thursday postponed forthcoming joint exercises as the Asian country announced its biggest increase in coronavirus cases to date. The decision to delay the training was ..