Italian media say the Italian government has ordered schools nationwide to close for the next two weeks to limit the spread of the coronavirus, but the country's education minister says a final decision on the closure not yet been confirmed.
State-run RAI, the ANSA and LaPresse news agencies reported Wednesday that Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte had agreed on the closure during a cabinet meeting. But Education Minister Lucia Azzolina told reporters that nothing is final yet.
Italy has seen its virus caseload explode since the first positive test was registered in northern Lombardy on Feb. 19. Since then, more than 2,500 people in Italy have tested positive, and 79 have died. Italy is the epicenter of Europe's outbreak.
In the early days of the outbreak, officials closed schools in Lombardy and Veneto, the two hardest-hit regions. Over the weekend, they closed schools in Emilia Romagna.
The Baltic nation of Lithuania has cancelled most of the indoor events planned for the 30th anniversary of its independence from the Soviet Union because of the coronavirus.
The speaker of the Lithuanian parliament said Wednesday authorities decided to call off the events since many of the people expected to attend the events are elderly and at higher risk of infection.
Parliament speaker Viktoras Pranckietis says most foreign leaders also cancelled scheduled trips to attend the anniversary events in Lithuania. He didn't name names, but invitations had been sent to lawmakers in Ukraine, Poland and neighboring Baltic states Latvia and Estonia.
There will be several events in downtown Vilnius, including a flag-raising on Independence Square on March 11 and an evening concert.
Lithuania so far only has reported one virus case.
The Louvre Museum in France is open again after employees worried about catching the coronavirus agreed to return to work.
The Paris museum where Leonardo da Vinci's iconic painting hangs had been closed since Sunday while employees fearing infection stayed off the job.
But Louvre staff members voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to resume work and the Louvre opened its doors in the afternoon.
Management presented a raft of new anti-virus measures to try to coax employees back to work. Among them: wider distributions of disinfectant gels and more frequent staff rotations so employees have time to wash their hands.
The London Book Fair has been canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The fair, which usually draws more than 25,000 writers, agents and publishers to one of the international publishing industry's biggest gatherings, had been due to take place at London's Olympia conference venue March 10-12.
Organizer Reed Exhibitions said Wednesday that it had decided "with reluctance" to cancel the event.
The decision came after several major publishers, including HarperCollins and Penguin Random House, pulled out of the fair because of the disease, citing the risk to staff.
Also Wednesday, organizers announced that Asia's biggest casino industry trade show has been postponed because of the virus.
Global Gaming Expo Asia, originally scheduled to be held on May 19-21 in Macao, will be held at the end of July.
More than 13,000 people attended last year's expo, jointly organized by the American Gaming Association and Reed Exhibitions.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the social network is stepping up its efforts to combat virus-related misinformation by giving the World Health Organization free advertising.
Zuckerberg said in a post on his Facebook account that the company is working with national health ministries and global organizations like the World Health Orgnization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF to get out timely and accurate information on the virus.
Zuckerberg said Facebook will also give "support and millions more in ad credits" to other unspecified organizations.
Facebook has previously taken other measures to fight virus hoaxes and misinformation, including removing false claims and conspiracy theories and showing users a pop-up directing them to the World Health Orgnization or their local health authority for the latest information.
A Beijing-based intensive care doctor now working in Wuhan – the city at the epicenter of China's coronavirus outbreak – says designated hospitals in the city are seeing an increasing number of empty beds after a large number of virus patients were discharged.
Du Bin added, however, that there's always the possibility of another spike in new cases.
Du said Wednesday that a major cause of deaths in younger patients may have been the prolonged application of certain high-dosage treatments that ended up causing more harm than good.
Cao Bin, a doctor specializing in respiratory research who is also currently in Wuhan, told reporters, "The war is not over."
Cao said Chinese researchers have led initial clinical trials of two antiviral drugs and will soon share the results of the trials with the World Health Organization.
Germany has joined several other countries in banning the export of medical equipment such as respiratory masks, gloves and protective suits in most cases.
Germany, like other nations, has faced a shortage of such equipment as concerns over the widening coronavirus outbreak have mounted. In Germany itself, 240 infections have been confirmed so far.
Germany's interior ministry said Wednesday that exemptions from the export ban will be allowed only under strict conditions, such as for "concerted international aid actions."
Russia's government on Wednesday banned the export of masks, respirators and other protective gear along with anti-virus medicines until June 1. It also noted that the ban doesn't cover humanitarian aid.
The Ministry for Industry and Trade said the move is intended to prevent an "artificial deficit" of protective goods, which are being increasingly sold abroad as global demand has soared.
The Czech government also said it is banning exports of respirators and will start regulating their sale at home, saying it needs them for health workers and others. The Czech Republic has five confirmed cases of the new virus.
The Louvre did not open as scheduled on Wednesday, and several hundred people who lined up outside were greeted by a sign saying, "Due to exceptional circumstances, the museum will open later."
The world's most visited museum has been closed since Sunday because of workers' worries about the potential spread of the new virus.
Management laid out a series of new measures to prevent contamination, trying to coax the staffers back to work.
The proposed steps include the wider distribution of disinfectant gels and more frequent rotations so staff can wash their hands.
Most of the Paris landmark's 9.6 million visitors last year came from other countries, and the museum that houses the Mona Lisa and other treasures welcomes tens of thousands of people every day.
The European Central Bank says it's restricting all nonessential travel by members of its executive board and employees through April 20 as a precautionary measure amid the global coronavirus outbreak.
The central bank for the 19-nation eurozone said Wednesday that visits to its Frankfurt headquarters and its public visitor center are being suspended for the same period. It is postponing or cancelling conferences that were due to be held at the bank – but says that news conferences after regular policy-setting meetings of its governing council are unaffected, and that the next one will go ahead March 12 as planned.
The ECB stressed that the move was a precaution and there have been no recorded cases yet of bank employees being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
India says its number of confirmed coronavirus cases has jumped to 28, up from just five.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan says an earlier COVID-19 patient who had traveled to Italy led to the confirmation of six other infections. Another cluster of cases that emerged centered around a large group of Italian tourists who had entered India on Feb. 21.
India also announced Wednesday that it has imposed universal screening of all passengers on international flights.
Meanwhile, South Korea reported 435 new cases, pushing its total to 5,621 — the second-highest total after China.