A Japanese woman thought to have recovered from the coronavirus has tested positive again, raising yet more concerns about the spread of the virus. The woman, a tour bus guide in Osaka, was first diagnosed in late January and was released from the hospital on Feb. 1, authorities say. This is the first known case of a recurring COVID-19 infection in Japan, though there have been a few similar cases in China, reports Reuters. "Once you have the infection, it could remain dormant and with minimal symptoms, and then you can get an exacerbation if it finds its way into the lungs," says Philip Tierno Jr., a professor at NYU's School of Medicine. He says it is possible that the disease "is bi-phasic, like anthrax." In other developments:
- Saudis ban pilgrims. In an apparently unprecedented step, Saudi Arabia has banned foreign pilgrims from entering the country in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus, the AP reports. Islam requires the faithful to visit Mecca at least once in their lives, and authorities at Cairo's international airport say there was "intense confusion" and "extreme anger" among passengers waiting for flights when news of the ban broke.
- More deaths in Italy. Italy says the death toll from the outbreak is now 14, with 470 confirmed infections. Iran has reported 26 deaths and 245 infections, but Christl Donnelly, an Oxford University professor of statistical epidemiology, warns that based on death tolls, the true total of cases in both countries is likely to be more than 1,000, the Guardian reports.
- Japan closes schools. Japan has announced that all elementary and secondary schools will be closed from March 2 until after the spring break at the end of the month. Hong Kong has closed schools until April 20.
- France braces for epidemic. In France, which has reported 18 infections and two deaths, President Emmanuel Macron warned that the number of cases is expected to rise steeply, the BBC reports. "We are facing a crisis, an epidemic, that is coming," he said while visiting a hospital. "We are going to have to deal with it as best we can."
- Virus is now in 47 countries. Coronavirus cases have now been reported in 47 countries and on every continent except Antarctica, the New York Times reports. Denmark, Estonia, Norway, and Romania were among the new countries that reported their first cases Wednesday. Other countries already affected reported steep rises in the number of cases: South Korea said there had been 505 new infections and Kuwait reported 43 more cases, all apparently linked to the Iran outbreak.
- China death toll is lowest in weeks. As cases surged in other countries, China reported its lowest death toll in almost a month, per RTHK. Authorities reported 29 more COVID-19 deaths Thursday, the lowest since Jan. 29, when 26 deaths were reported. Authorities reported 433 more infections, 24 of them outside Hubei province.
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