Pope Francis’s Angelus prayer on Sunday will be livestreamed in a break with centuries-old tradition, the Vatican announced, as the number coronavirus cases topped 100,000.
The World Health Organization called the spread “deeply concerning” as several countries reported their first cases of the disease — which has killed more than 3,500 people and infected more than 100,000 across 94 nations and territories.
The Angelus prayers — normally delivered by the pontiff from his window — will “be broadcast via livestream by Vatican News and on screens in Saint Peter’s Square,” the Vatican said.
The Vatican, which has reported its first coronavirus case, had promised to review the 83-year-old pontiff’s schedule “to avoid the dissemination” of the new COVID-19 disease.
The US meanwhile was battling to contain an outbreak on a cruise ship where 21 people have tested positive.
The Grand Princess has been stranded off San Francisco since Wednesday — when it was supposed to dock — after two people who had been on the ship during its previous voyage contracted the virus. One later died.
US Vice President Mike Pence said the ship will be brought to a non-commercial dock this weekend and all 3,533 passengers and crew will be tested.
The Grand Princess belongs to Princess Cruises, the same company that operates the coronavirus-stricken ship held off Japan last month on which more than 700 people tested positive.
In China, where the outbreak began in December, the virus wreaked havoc on the world’s second-largest economy, shutting down businesses and disrupting global supply chains.
The negative impact was shown in official data Saturday, with China’s exports plunging 17.2 percent in the first two months of the year.
– Global spread –
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has urged “that all countries make containment their highest priority.”
Colombia, Costa Rica and Malta have announced their first cases.
The number of infections in South Korea breached 7,000 on Saturday — the highest in the world outside China.
Two apartment blocks in Daegu — the fourth-largest city and the epicentre of its outbreak — have been quarantined after dozens of residents tested positive.
Iran on Saturday reported 21 new deaths from the novel coronavirus and 1,076 fresh cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall tolls to 145 dead and 5,823 infected.
The number of cases recorded in France rose to 716 with 11 deaths.
Italy, the worst hit European country with 4,636 cases and 197 deaths, began recruiting retired doctors on Saturday to bolster the healthcare system with 20,000 additional staff.
However in China, the number of new cases reported Saturday nationwide was the lowest in weeks.
The Chinese government has hinted it may soon lift the quarantine imposed on Hubei province — the locked-down epicentre where some 56 million people have been effectively housebound since late January.
For the second consecutive day, there were no new cases reported in Hubei outside Wuhan, the province’s capital.
But the number of infections beyond the epicentre rose for the third straight day, fuelling fears about cases being brought into the country from overseas. There have now been 60 imported cases.
– Cancellations –
The epidemic has hit international business, tourism, and sports events, with almost 300 million students sent home worldwide as schools and universities close.
The number of international tourist arrivals is expected to drop sharply this year, the World Tourism Organization said.
The South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas and the Ultra electronic dance festival in Miami were among the latest events to be cancelled.
In India, the world’s biggest film industry called off its equivalent of the Oscars that had been set for the end of the month.
Dozens of sports events have been cancelled, including the Scotland-France rugby match scheduled for Saturday in Glasgow for the Six Nations women’s tournament in Glasgow.
US basketball superstar LeBron James said Friday he won’t play if his Los Angeles Lakers have to hold games behind closed doors.
The holy city of Bethlehem was in lockdown after the first Palestinian cases of the deadly coronavirus were discovered there Friday, leaving tourists scrambling to find a way out.
But Saudi Arabia reopened the area around the sacred Kaaba in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, after suspending the year-long umra pilgrimage during which worshippers circle the Kaaba seven times.
However, access to the Kaaba is blocked and the Grand Mosque is being sterilised.
With the elderly among the most at-risk groups, French President Emmanuel Macron urged people to limit visits to the old and infirm as much as possible to avoid further spread.
Stock markets and oil prices have collapsed as investors panic over the expected devastating damage to global economic growth.