Feb 26, 2020 - World

Pope Francis celebrates Ash Wednesday Mass amid Italian coronavirus outbreak

Pope Francis during Ash Wednesday Mass in 2019. Photo: Vatican Pool/Getty Images

Pope Francis celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass at the Vatican, despite the cancellation of religious services elsewhere in Italy thanks to an ongoing outbreak of novel coronavirus, AP reports.

Why it matters: Mass gatherings in close proximity — like religious services and sporting events — could become an easy way for the virus to spread as the outbreak widens across the globe.

  • Venice, which has a number of confirmed coronavirus cases, cancelled its main Ash Wednesday Mass at the landmark St. Mark's Basilica.

The state of play: Italy has the fourth-largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases with 322.

  • Francis still kissed a child and shook hands with pilgrims during his usual audience in the Vatican's St. Peter's Square.
  • He also directly addressed the outbreak during his remarks, saying, "I want to again express my closeness to those suffering from the coronavirus and the health care workers who are treating them, as well as the civil authorities and all those who are working to help patients and stop the contagion."

The big picture: Taking on the virus is an issue for religious leaders across the globe.

  • Spiking coronavirus cases in Iran are raising concerns that the disease "infiltrated" a popular pilgrimage route for Shiite Muslims in the city of Qom, The Guardian reports.
  • Mosques in Iraq have been instructed to give advice on how to best avoid the coronavirus during their Friday sermons, Reuters notes.

Go deeper: Global coronavirus cases spread as U.S. soldier tests positive in South Korea

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More new coronavirus cases outside China than inside for first time

A tourist wearing a medical facemask in Venice, Italy. Photo: Andrea Pattaro/AFP via Getty Images

The number of new cases of the novel coronavirus reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time, the World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing on Wednesday.

Details: Tedros called the sudden increase in cases in South Korea (1,595), Italy (453) and Iran (141) "deeply concerning."

Go deeperArrowFeb 27, 2020 - Health

Timeline: How Italy's coronavirus crisis became the world's deadliest

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. Note: The data was not updated on March 12

Italy recorded 602 deaths on Monday from the coronavirus — a staggering total that could nonetheless be some cause for hope because it's the second day of decline from Saturday's high of 793.

The big picture: Monday marks two weeks since Italy entered a nationwide lockdown, with officials warning at the time that we wouldn't get a sense of how effective the measures had been until right about now.

TimelineArrowMar 24, 2020 - World

San Francisco declares coronavirus emergency

Airline passengers wearing face masks walk out of the international terminal at the San Francisco International Airport on Jan. 31. Photo: Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

San Francisco Mayor London Breed made an emergency declaration on Tuesday in response to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: COVID-19 infections have spread from China to some 40 countries and territories. There are 57 cases in the U.S. The CDC anticipates it will spread further, and that's why Breed said she took the action. While there have been no confirmed cases among San Francisco residents, three people have been treated for the virus in hospitals in the city, the Los Angeles Times notes.

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