Coronavirus: latest developments worldwide

An increasing number of countries have been affected by the coronavirus

The list of countries hit globally grows. Mecca suspends entry for pilgrims. Several countries close their schools, stock exchanges plunge.

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis.

- More than 45 countries hit -

Some 81,000 people have been infected worldwide and more than 2,760 have died, according to the latest toll from the World Health Organization late on Wednesday.

In the UN body's latest count, more than 40 people have died outside mainland China since the start of the epidemic, out of more than 2,900 people infected.

The toll rises to more than 60 if the most recent deaths are included from certain countries, which are not yet accounted for in the updated WHO report.

The number of deaths in China -- where the virus was first detected -- has declined, with 29 in the past 24 hours, the lowest count in nearly a month.

But the daily number of infections worldwide is still higher than in China, the WHO says.

The coronavirus has appeared in nine new countries -- Brazil, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Norway, Northern Macedonia, Pakistan and Romania -- bringing the number of countries hit to more than 45.

South Korea has announced almost 1,600 infections -- by far the largest outside China -- and 12 deaths.

The number of infections in Italy, the hardest hit country in Europe, hits the 400 mark late on Wednesday, with 12 deaths.

Iran announces a total of 26 deaths and more than 245 infections.

In France two people have died, with more than 18 infected, after the death of a 60-year-old Frenchman late on Wednesday.

Latin America records its first case in a Brazilian who returned home from Italy.

- Pilgrimages, war games suspended -

Saudi Arabia temporarily suspends visas for visits to Islam's holiest sites for the "umrah" pilgrimage, an unprecedented move triggered by coronavirus fears.

Iranian authorities for their part announce domestic travel restrictions for people with confirmed or suspected cases of the novel coronavirus.

The US and South Korean militaries announce they are postponing forthcoming joint exercises.

- United States says prepared -

But US President Donald Trump attempts to play down fears that the virus could worsen in America, where 60 cases have been reported, saying "nothing's inevitable".

- Schools closed -  

Japan closes schools for several weeks from Monday, while North Korea, which has recorded no infections, puts off the return to school.

The Iraqi authorities close schools and universities, cinemas and cafes until March 7.

- Sports, markets disrupted -

The alpine skiing World Cup Finals scheduled for next month in Italy will take place without any fans on the slopes.

Ireland's Six Nations rugby match against Italy planned for Dublin on March 7 is postponed to a later date.

In the economic sector, European bourses and the Tokyo stock market slump again amid the surge in coronavirus infections.

French carrier Air France says it will take cost-cutting measures and freeze hiring.