Death toll from coronavirus rises to 34, five more than a day earlier, officials say, as government prepares to boost spending to help fragile economy as cases rise to nearly 1,700.

People shelter against the rain with umbrellas as they walk along the Rialto bridge on a rainy day in Venice, Sunday, March 1, 2020.
People shelter against the rain with umbrellas as they walk along the Rialto bridge on a rainy day in Venice, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP)

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has risen to 34, five more than a day earlier, officials said on Sunday, as the government prepared to boost spending to help the fragile economy.

The head of Italy's Civil Protection Agency said the cumulative number of confirmed cases of the virus had jumped to 1,694 from 1,128 on Saturday, virtually all of them coming to light since February 20 in the worst such contagion in Europe.

The news came as a new US government advisory urged Americans not to travel to the two Italian regions hardest hit by the virus.

Italian health authorities said the increase is expected since it takes as long as two weeks for containment measures to take effect, and because Italy has a large number of elderly people.

US advisory 

The US travel advisory cited quarantines set up in 10 towns in Lombardy and one in Veneto, with a combined population of 50,000 people, as well as the "the level of community transmission of the virus.'' 

It followed an earlier warning late Friday for Americans to avoid non-essential travel to all of Italy.

Tourism officials call the US warning covering all of Italy potentially calamitous to the industry, which represents 13 percent of the gross domestic product in a country famed for its world-class museums, archaeological sites, art cities, and natural beauty.

More than 5.6 million Americans visit Italy every year, representing 9 percent of foreign tourists and the second-largest national group behind Germans, according to the most recent statistics.

Iran says 54 dead

Iran's Health Ministry raised on Sunday the nationwide death toll from the new coronavirus to 54 as the number of infected cases jumped overnight to 978 people.

The ministry's spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said new cases were confirmed in a number of cities, including Mashhad, which is home to Iran's most important Shia shrine that attracts pilgrims from across the region. 

Calls by Iran's civilian government to clerics to close such shrines to the public have not been uniformly followed. The shrine in Mashhad is among those that have remained open.

The new figures represent 11 more deaths than reported on Saturday and a whopping 385 new cases of infections. 

The new numbers, however, bring down the percentage of deaths to infections from 20 percent to around 5.5 percent. 

Still, that is much higher than other countries, suggesting the number of infections may also be much higher.

Flights suspended

Jahanpour said in his daily briefing that the number of cases is "still inclining" across Iran.

Also on Sunday, Iran's state broadcaster said all flights to the city of Rasht, the capital of northern Gilan province, had been suspended. It gave no reason why. 

The area of Gilan has some of Iran's highest number of infections after the capital, Tehran, and the holy city of Qom, the epicenter of the virus outbreak in the country.

The illness, known as Covid-19 and that originated in central China, has infected at least seven government officials in Iran, including one of its vice presidents and a senior health ministry official.

Iran has said it is preparing for the possibility of "tens of thousands" of people getting tested for the virus behind the outbreak.

Of the more than 1,100 cases in the Middle East, the majority trace back to the Islamic Republic.

The virus has infected more than 86,000 people worldwide and caused more than 2,900 deaths since emerging in China. Iran has the world’s highest death toll outside of China.

Armenia reports first case

Meanwhile, Armenian prime minister said on Sunday a passenger traveling from Iran is diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, confirming the first case in his country.

In a Facebook post, Nikol Pashinyan said that a 29-year-old Armenian citizen, who came from Tehran, where the disease is rapidly spreading, has been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The infected person is fine, Pashinyan said, adding that they search for all those who contacted the individual.

First death in Thailand

Thailand reported on Sunday the first death from the new coronavirus.

According to the local daily Bangkok Post, the authorities announced that a 35-year-old patient who was diagnosed with the disease died, marking the first death.

Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the Department of Disease Control of the Public Health Ministry, said that the patient was hospitalised due to dengue fever, however, he was also diagnosed with the coronavirus after his admission to the hospital.

Suwannachai said the male patient, who was a retail worker, was transferred to Bamrasnardura Infectious Diseases Institute where he died on Saturday of multiple organ failure.

A total of 42 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Thailand so far.

Death toll in China rises to 2,872

The death toll from the novel coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 2,872 on Sunday, according to the National Health Commission.

The agency said 35 more people died in the last 24 hours while 573 new cases were detected by authorities, bringing the total number of confirmed cases close to 80,000.

Thirty-four of the deaths occurred at the epicentre of the outbreak, Hubei province, while one in Hunan province.

Nearly 52,000 people are currently under medical care, while the number of discharged patients has totaled 41,620.

Outside mainland China, there are 95 registered cases in Hong Kong and 10 in Macau.

Global cases

Outside of China, a total of 7,741 cases have been recorded around the world since the epidemic began, including 120 deaths.

There have been 1,073 new cases outside China since Saturday at 1700 GMT.

The most affected countries after China are South Korea (3,736 cases, 18 deaths, 586 new cases), Italy (1,128 cases, 29 deaths, no new cases), Iran (978 cases, 54 deaths, 385 new cases) and Japan (239 cases, 11 deaths, nine new cases).

Japan has also recorded more than 700 cases aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess moored off Yokohama.

The coronavirus has spread to more than 50 other countries, and the World Health Organization, which already declared the outbreak an international health emergency on Friday, raised the global coronavirus alert level from high to "very high."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies