The Latest: Pakistan closes sites, Indonesia checks pilgrims
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— The South Pacific island nation of Fiji confirmed its first case, in a man infected while traveling abroad.
— Indonesia halted a mass congregation of nearly 9,000 Muslim pilgrims and began quarantining and checking their health.
— Mexico confirmed its first virus death and limits on public gatherings have halted spring equinox visits to its pre-Hispanic pyramids.
— The coronavirus pandemic has infected 218,000 people and COVID-19 has killed more than 8,800. Some 84,000 have recovered.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistani authorities closed shrines of Sufi saints in the capital and elsewhere and visits to museums, archaeological and tourist sites were banned as cases of coronavirus jumped to 301, mostly in pilgrims returning from Iran.
Two people who had returned from Saudi Arabia and Dubai became Pakistan’s first victims when they died Wednesday in the northwest.
It spread panic among those who were not taking infections seriously.
Pakistani authorities on Thursday were planning to quarantine hundreds of pilgrims who returned from Iran. These pilgrims will be kept at isolated buildings in central Pakistan for two weeks.
Pakistan has already shut schools and students have been forced to leave hostels.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Fiji’s government on Thursday confirmed the South Pacific island nation’s first case of the new coronavirus, saying a man became infected while traveling abroad.
The government said on social media that the man had been isolated at Lautoka Hospital and was in stable condition. The government said there was no local outbreak.
There have been very few cases of the virus reported in the South Pacific and authorities are desperate to keep it that way due to poor health infrastructure in the region.
Fiji is popular with tourists thanks to its white sand beaches and warm weather. It has a population of 930,000.
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is in home quarantine after being exposed to a health officer infected with the new virus.
He leads the Philippines’ response to the epidemic. Duque says he is experiencing mild allergy symptoms and his virus test results are expected in a few days.
Duque said he would continue leading from home an inter-agency group enforcing quarantine regulations in the country’s main northern region of Luzon, which includes the densely populated capital of Manila.
The Philippines has reported 202 infections, with 17 deaths.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government is limiting entry to the country for 30 days from Thursday evening in its latest effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The entry ban covers all non-essential travel into the country for visitors from outside the European Union, the United Kingdom and countries that are part of Europe’s passport-free travel zone known as Schengen.
Exceptions also will be made for travelers with residence permits for the Netherlands and people in “vital” occupations such as health workers.
As of Wednesday, the Netherlands had recorded 58 coronavirus deaths in the outbreak and 2,051 positive tests.
MAKASSAR, Indonesia — Indonesia halted a mass congregation of nearly 9,000 Muslim pilgrims and began quarantining and checking their health to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
The four-day gathering in a rural area on south Sulawesi island wasn’t approved by authorities and drew fears it could widely spread the virus in the world’s fourth most populous nation.
It was organized by Jamaat Tabligh, a Muslim missionary movement that held a similar mass event in Malaysia now linked to hundreds of cases in several countries.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia is banning incoming passengers who are not citizens, permanent residents or direct family members of residents.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday the change will take effect at 9 p.m. AEDT (10:00 GMT).
Morrison says 80% or cases of the new coronavirus detected in Australia have been infected overseas or by direct contact with someone who had been infected overseas. Overseas arrivals are currently expected to self-isolate for 14 days.
New Zealand also is closing its border to people who aren’t citizens or residents from Friday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had become increasingly concerned that visitors to New Zealand have not been properly isolating themselves for 14 days as required. There are a few exceptions, including children and partners of residents.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s health department has confirmed the country’s first death from the new coronavirus.
The department wrote on Twitter late Wednesday that the person began showing symptoms on March 9 and had diabetes. It provided no more details about how, where or from whom the person became infected.
Mexico has 118 confirmed cases of infection and officials expect the numbers to rapidly increase in the coming weeks.
Authorities have been urging people to keep their distance in social situations and schools have halted classes.
Spring equinox visits to Mexico’s pre-Hispanic pyramids have also been stopped.
Mexican authorities will close off the Teotihuacan archaeological site Saturday and Sunday to prevent large gatherings and the potential spread of coronavirus.
As many as 100,000 people climb the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon at Teotihuacan each spring to receive “energy.”
The Yucatan governor earlier said the ruins at Chichen Itza will be closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
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